Nobody better: Cottage Grove U12 Green softball team wins state championship
Cottage Grove can once again boast it has the best 12 year-old softball team in the state.
The Cottage Grove Athletic Association U12 Green girls softball team, coached by Tony Young, Chuck Newton and Neil Perryman, won the state championship at the highest level possible, going 5-0 at the recent state tournament at Caswell Park in Mankato.
In a tournament fielding the best 16 U12 girls softball teams in the state, Cottage Grove Green beat Shakopee 12-0, East Ridge 9-1, Bloomington 3-2 and the Silver Bullets out of Centennial 7-0 before topping Eagan 7-5 in the Tier 1 state championship game.
The win earned Cottage Grove Green the right to call themselves the best U12 softball team in the state for a second season. The same team (with 9 of 11 current players) also won the state title at the top level in the fall season.
It was Young's fourth season as head coach.
"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to go out and win that state tournament," Young said. "They were very, very excited. We still have to have our team party. That will be fun."
Young said the reason the team won the state championship was simple.
"The one thing we preached all year is that we have, without a question, outworked everybody," Young said. "Nobody has practiced more than us. The girls have bought in to our style of play and they got after it."
An interesting aspect of Cottage Grove U12 Green is, while most other youth softball teams have players from a number of areas making up their teams, 100 percent of the girls from this team are set to attend Park High School, Young said.
The Eagan Stars, for example, were made up of players from Prior Lake, Rosemount, Eastview and Eagan, Young said.
In the championship game, with Eagan needing to beat Cottage Grove twice, the Wolfpack fell behind 3-0 early. However, Cottage Grove scored six runs in the third inning to take the lead and never looked back.
"Eagan came out and hit the ball and we seemed a little flat," Young said. "Before the third inning I told the girls the only thing standing in the way of their goal was that club team out on the field. Club team, meaning they have four different communities making up that team."
Cottage Grove has four softball teams at the U12 level. Cottage Grove U12 Green qualified for state at the state-qualifying Tri-County Tournament. However, Cottage Grove lost two games there --EMDASH-- to Farmington and Eagan, while East Ridge won the tourney championship title. However, at state, Cottage Grove beat both Eagan and East Ridge.
"At the qualifier, we just knew we had to finish in the top eight to make state," Young said. "Some teams, that's the tournament they like to win. For us, that's a tournament to get us fine-tuned for the state tournament."
At state, Cottage Grove scored 38 runs and allowed just eight runs in five games.
This spring, Cottage Grove U12 Green hired a hitting coach, Lisa Bernstein from the Minnesota Fastpitch Academy, to work with the team periodically. Bernstein, a former head coach at the University of Minnesota, worked with the team for five weeks, one-one-one, for an hour a session.
"That made the difference right there," Young said. "All the parents believed in it, bought into it and were committed to it. Without her we may win state, but not in the fashion we did."
On the year, Delaney Young, Riley Perrryman and Madi Meduna led the team at the plate. Young hit .534 with a team-high 83 RBI, Perryman batted .497 and had a team-leading 67 stolen bases. Meduna batted .453.
Cottage Grove's on-base percentage as a team was .457.
"In years past teams used to fear our pitching," Tony Young said. "This year, in the state tournament especially, everyone was talking about our hitting. They feared our bats. It was incredible."
Bryanna Olson and Delaney Young split the pitching duties for Cottage Grove U12 Green this season.
"Those are the best two pitchers in the state right there," Tony Young said. "We also had excellent defense. The girls were just ready to play. The pitchers located their pitches and the defense made the plays. It's easy when it works that way."
Following the state championship win, Cottage Grove went to nationals and took sixth place. Eagan, the team Cottage Grove beat at state, won the national tournament. Teams must earn a berth to the national tournament. States represented were Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Illinois.
"Winning the state tournament was our goal," Tony Young said. "We played well, but just not at the level we did at state. In Mankato nobody was beating us. But, we were flying a little high at nationals I think.
"The girls have to understand that the target is on them now. Everyone wants to beat us. No matter the team we play we're getting their best game. They want to say they beat the state champs."