Cottage Grove softball: Wolfpack brings home hardwareThe Cottage Grove Athletic Association 10-year-old softball team completed an outstanding season with a third-place finish at the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) Bloomington MN 10U National Tournament.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
After four months of hard work, a local softball team earned some major hardware.
The Cottage Grove Athletic Association 10-year-old softball team completed an outstanding season with a third-place finish at the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) Bloomington MN 10U National Tournament, held July 21 to 24 at the Dred Scott Fields in Bloomington. The Wolfpack began its season in April.
“We had excellent pitching, catching and defense,” head coach Tony Young said. “We were a hit away from winning the whole darn thing.”
One of 13 states to host a NAFA National Tournament, Minnesota’s 54-team nationals was comprised of the top 10-year-old softball teams in the state of Minnesota, along with top teams from Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Teams qualified for the national tournament by finishing first or second in certain tournaments throughout the season.
Young said he felt it was the most difficult tournament in the state this year.
“It’s basically a replay of the state tournament along with teams from Wisconsin, Illinois and Nebraska,” Young said. “It’s a very good tournament.”
The NAFA National Tournament began with 18 pools of three teams. Teams that won two pool games advanced to the final 18-team double-elimination tournament to decide the national tournament champion.
At the national tournament, Cottage Grove went 2-0 in pool play with wins over St. Michael Albertville, 3-2, and Stateline Fury of Illinois, 7-0.
In the 18-team tournament, Cottage Grove defeated Eden Prairie 7-0 in the first round, and then beat Anoka 2-1 in round No. 2. The Wolfpack suffered its first loss of the tournament, 5-3 to Eagan, in the third round before rebounding to beat East Ridge 1-0 in the playback round. However, Cottage Grove’s hopes of a championship were dashed in its next game with a 3-2 loss to Farmington. However, the Wolfpack bounced back in the third-place game with a 7-4 win over Roseville to earn the large third-place trophy.
Farmington went on to win the tournament championship with Eagan, which won the state championship in early July, finishing as runner-up.
Young said the Farmington team was comprised of players from Farmington only, but that Eagan pulled players from surrounding areas.
“It’s not a true Eagan team really,” Young said. “They didn’t have any holes — it was a superstar team. That’s a distinct advantage. Farmington was just a very good team that has worked hard.”
Cottage Grove had players from Cottage Grove and “100 percent Park players” only, according to Young.
“I just told the girls to keep their chins up,” Young said. “Eagan had a club team and we had a community team and we made them sweat.”
After finishing third in the national tournament, third in the state tournament, and third in the Tri-County league, the Cottage Grove 10U Green Wolfpack finished 36-11-1 for the year. The team followed up its nationals finish by competing in a post-season tournament in Hudson, Wis., July 29 and 30, at the 12-and-under level — up an age group — finishing in second place.
Young said he wasn’t surprised by his team’s success this season — but that some were.
“We came a long way this year,” Young said. “Nobody expected us to be this good. From 1-to-11 we got 100 times better at the end of the year. The girls weren’t afraid to do what it took to win and accepted their roles.”