Hulne: Getting ready for May Madness

Published 7:19 pm Friday, May 19, 2017

Most sports fans are familiar with the term March Madness, but we don’t often hear about May Madness, which is about to begin next week for area baseball and softball teams.

The postseason for spring sports can often sneak up on you as the regular season is usually jam packed into a month and a half gauntlet of freezing cold weather, rushed games in poor conditions and rain delays.

But the quickness of the regular season and confusion that comes with it is often what makes the spring baseball and softball tournaments so unpredictable and often exciting. You simply don’t know enough about teams yet to know who really is the favorite and an ace pitcher in baseball can always turn a mediocre squad into a very tough team to beat.

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The Packer softball team showed how things can change in the postseason last year when they were one of the final three teams playing in Section 1AAA — despite winning just four games in the regular season. Austin has shown the ability to compete with some of the top teams in the state this year and it could put together another postseason surge.

The Austin baseball team has proven that it can win this season when it plays solid defense and converts with runners on base. The Packers have a lot of young players, but most of them are used to winning at the VFW level.

Lately Section 1A softball has been dominated by area teams as Blooming Prairie won four straight Section 1A titles and one Class A state title from 2010 to 2013 and Hayfield has won the last two Section 1A titles.

Through all of that dominance, there have been seen some strong performances from local athletes. Blooming Prairie leaned on the big time pitching of Erica Manske and Shelbi Swenson during its reign and Hayfield has a team that can score a lot of runs in a hurry. The Vikings, who are seeded No. 1 in Section 1A West again this spring, have a strong group of juniors — including Maggie Streightiff and Carrie Rutledge — who are looking to get to a third straight state tournament. Kyal Heydt could be a wild card for Hayfield in the postseason as she is still making progress after returning to the lineup from a major knee injury.

While BP is seeded third, I wouldn’t be surprised if it could make a run this year as well. BP senior Bria Baldwin was a starting outfielder on the 2013 state championship team, Elly Struck is in her fourth year as a varsity pitcher for the Awesome Blossoms and BP has some other young players who can step up as well.

In Section 1A baseball, No. 3 Southland has a deep pitching staff and a solid ace in senior Chris Webber. The Rebels are capable of shaking things up if they can pick up momentum early and get their bats going.

Whatever happens this spring, I’m sure it’ll be another wild and unpredictable ride. Just remember to embrace the May Madness.