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Pete's Point: Early peak at spring sports highlights

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The April 10 edition of the Echo Journal newspaper will include a detailed preview section for Pequot Lakes Patriots and Pine River-Backus Tigers spring sports teams. The section will feature team photos of the Patriots and Tigers, along with schedules and preview stories.

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Last spring was memorable for our area teams and athletes, not just because of the rare delay in the start because of inclement weather, but because of the admirable finish for many of the teams and athletes.

This should be another successful spring for many of the Pequot Lakes and PR-B teams. Here’s a sneak peak at some of the highlights to watch for this spring:

1. When will the outside games begin? Two years ago, northern Minnesota had a warm spring where the snow had melted in the lakes area by the middle of March. Last year was a disaster with cold and snowy conditions that extended through April. We did have snowfall this week, but the 10-day forecast calls for temperatures in the 50s starting this weekend. So maybe the sounds of “play ball” will be right around the corner (I will be providing regular schedule updates on Facebook and Twitter). There already have been some rescheduled games, including the Pequot Lakes vs. PR-B baseball game from April 3 will be part of a doubleheader May 20 at Pequot Lakes.

2. How many Pequot Lakes and PR-B track athletes will advance to state? Last year, 14 boys and girls advanced to the Class A state meet for the Patriots while Megan Porta became the first Tiger athlete in recent years to place at state when she finished fifth in the long jump. The Patriots return most of their state qualifiers, including seniors Vanessa Lane and Tyler Tappe, who are both committed to Division I college track and field programs. Last season, Lane won the 100-meter dash at state and joined Rachell Allen, Abby Palmer and Chloe Bermel in winning the 4x100 relay at state. Meanwhile, Tappe just missed winning a state championship in the pole vault as he place second behind Blake graduate Grant Krieger. This is a special season for the Patriots because of their new track and field complex. “It’s going to be exciting,” said Pequot Lakes boys’ track coach Dave Guenther. “The new facility is nice, but we still have a lot of work to do once the snow goes away.”

3. What will the Pequot Lakes softball team do for an encore? The Patriots advanced to their first state softball tournament and finished 10-1 in the Mid-State Conference and 19-4 overall last season. This spring, Pequot Lakes returns eight starters, including a dominant pitcher in senior Katie White, who won 15 games and struck out 149 hitters while compiling a 1.54 earned-run average. The Patriots return some big bats from a team that combined for a .362 batting average. Top returning hitters are Hannah Zimmerman (.431 last year), Haley Wiebolt (.427), White (.423 with 29 RBI) and Kayla Miller (.396).

PR-B also has numerous quality players returning from a softball team that compiled a 7-1 record in the Upper Mississippi Conference and was 11-4 overall last season.

4. Can the Patriots defend the Section 6A girls’ golf title? The Patriots captured their second section title in three years last season, and advanced to state where they finished third. Pequot Lakes returns a talented squad, although they did lose Savannah Stone to graduation. The Patriots return five letterwinners, including junior Maggie Heggerston, the section medalist who has already committed to the University of Minnesota golf team. Other members of last year’s state team were Sam Olmscheid, Megan Snyder, Amanda Nies and Alex Stone.

5. How will Steve Heslop do as the new PR-B boys’ golf coach? Heslop has been involved in coaching a variety of sports over the years at Pequot Lakes and will be replacing longtime Tigers’ boys’ golf coach Mark Gonnion. Heslop has an improving program to work with as one of his returning golfers is section qualifier Saul Sasse.

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