Gene's Blog: Spring teams eye "satisfying" finish
May 10, 2012
Ben Podobinski and his UST teammates open MIAC playoff action Friday in Minnetonka against St. Mary's. (Mike Ekern photo)
The Rolling Stones could never get any. But St. Thomas sports fans have found plenty of satisfaction throughout this fun 2011-12 sports year.
On the conference scene, St. Thomas has won 11 regular-season crowns – one off the record total -- and claimed three playoff championships with a chance for more this weekend.
UST qualified for the MIAC playoffs in nine of 11 sports. St. Thomas has already wrapped up the MIAC men’s all-sport title for the fifth year in a row, while the Tommie women are poised to win their fifth consecutive women’s all-sport crown this weekend at the outdoor track meet.
The success has continued on the national scene, where the Tommies appear headed for a top-15 finish in the Directors’ Cup all-sport competition. St. Thomas has won two individual NCAA championships. The Toms have had four teams place in the top five nationally, with seven teams getting ranked in the top 11 nationally.
Six Tommie sports are still in the spotlight and are looking for a big finish to their seasons.
Here are some items to watch for in the coming days and weeks, with quick facts on each sport:
St. Thomas (37-7), which has climbed to No. 11 in the latest Division III softball rankings, faces a tough regional test starting Friday in Pella, Iowa at the double-elimination tournament. The Toms are seeded third will have a win four games in a field that includes top-6 ranked Luther and Central, No. 19 Coe and dangerous UW-River Falls and St. Scholastica.
Did You Know?: Coach John Tschida’s team is making a run at the school’s ninth consecutive 40-win season… Sophomore catcher Emily Gregory (18 career HRs) is on pace to finish in the top three in MIAC history in home runs… Over the last nine seasons, Tommie softball has a 52-19 postseason record (21-7 MIAC, 31-12 NCAA)… Kimmy Hassel’s 74 hits are the third most in one season by an MIAC player behind Carrie Embree (80 in 52 games in 2006) and Alison Wright (76 in 46 games in 2009).
Men’s Track and Field
The Tommies have 24 points in the bank from last weekend’s 1-2-3 decathlon finish as they travel to Moorhead for the Friday-Saturday MIAC Outdoor Championships. UST won the indoor meet comfortably over Hamline, but the Pipers and St. John’s, along with Gustavus, Bethel and St. Olaf will be in the team title mix this weekend.
Did You Know?: Sophomore Maxwell Dunne of Burnsville, who won the MIAC decathlon last week, started his college career at North Central University in Chicago. He attended Inver Hills CC for a spell before transferring to UST in fall 2010. Dunne was second in the 2011 MIAC decathlon to teammate Devin Dirth. He went on a study abroad semester in Italy in fall 2011. Last March he was MIAC indoor heptathlon runner-up behind teammate Gavin Yseth... Dirth is sitting out this season with an injury… WCCO-TV is working on a video story about Tommie ace Mike Hutton and his twin brother Nick, a standout 800-meter runner for the Minnesota Gophers.
Women’s Track and Field
The Tommie women travel to Moorhead as a slight favorite for the Friday-Saturday MIAC Outdoor Championships team title. UST won the indoor meet by a safe 50-point margin over Carleton, but the Knights, St. Olaf, Concordia and St. Ben’s appear to be the prime team challengers.
Did You Know?: The weather looks very good for Moorhead for Friday and Saturday with temps between 67-72, no rain forecast, but a tricky NW wind will slow many of the races… UST scored 143.5 points and beat runner-up Gustavus by just 11 points at the 2011 outdoor championships. The Toms don’t expect to score as many field points as in the past but should score well in the three relays, sprints and middle distances and rely on depth in their quest for the title.
Coach Chris Olean’s Tommies play this weekend in the double-elimination MIAC Playoffs in Minnetonka. UST (31-6), ranked second nationally, opens at 3 p.m. Friday against fourth-seed St. Mary’s. The Toms went 6-0 against other three qualifiers Bethel, St. John’s and St. Mary’s by a combined 21-7 margin.
NCAA playoff pairings will be announced Monday, and the Tommies appear to be in good shape to be included with either an automatic or at-large berth.
Did You Know?: All remaining games this season are nine innings… St. Thomas baseball has a 32-11 all-time record in the 12-year history of the MIAC Playoffs, with eight championships, even though none of the games have been played on their campus… Junior DH-RHP Dylan Thomas has an 11-game hitting streak and in his last seven appearances on the mound is 5-0 with a save and an 0.75 ERA… UST is looking to become the fourth Tommie team this school year to sweep the conference regular-season and playoff titles (joining softball and men’s and women’s basketball).
The Tommie men's golf team is preparing for the program's first appearance in the NCAA golf tournament, set for May 15-18 in Orlando. St. Thomas won the conference's automatic berth when it won last October's 54-hole MIAC Championships by a two-stroke margin -- UST's first conference golf title in 31 seasons. Juniors Michael Mortenson, Brian Parkhurst and John Young, plus freshmen Alex Kapraun and Bennett Schroeder will compete.
Did You Know?: NCAA.com has a feature story with photos and quotes on the Tommies making their first trip to nationals: http://www.ncaa.com/news/golf-men/article/2012-05-10/new-and-old-faces-vie-crown … Mortenson, who hails from Iola, Wis., population 1,100, has a 75.6 stroke average this season. He was nominated for Academic All-America with a 3.94 gpa in Actuarial Science.
St. Thomas football will play a spring intrasquad scrimmage this Saturday at 1 p.m. in O’Shaughnessy Stadium. There’s no admission charge and it’s open to the public. UST will travel to Winnipeg later this month for an exhibition game against a Canadian team.
Did You Know?: The Tommies open their 2012 season Sept. 1 at UW-Eau Claire and open their home season Sept. 8 against UW-River Falls. The conference opener is Sept. 15 on the road against archrival St. John’s… UST graduates four All-America players plus two-year starters at QB and placekicker, but the Toms return a strong nucleus and likely will start the fall ranked in the top five nationally… Two of these graduating All-Americas, Fritz Waldvogel and Tony Danna, will be at Target Field and take part in an on-field home-run hitting contest this Saturday at 5:20 p.m. before the Twins’ game against Toronto.