The Mille Lacs County Times » Sports The Mille Lacs County Times cover community news, sports, current events and provides advertising and information for Milaca, Minnesota and it's surrounding areas. Sat, 18 Apr 2015 01:00:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mille Lacs walleye limit to 1; night muskie and bow fishing allowed Wed, 08 Apr 2015 15:56:31 +0000  Mille Lacs Lake anglers will be able to keep one walleye 19- to 21-inches long or one over 28 inches when fishing opens on Saturday, May 9, and an extended night fishing closure will again be in effect beginning the Monday after the opener, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

The restrictive walleye regulations are necessary to keep walleye harvest within the lake’s established safe harvest level.

“The new regulations reflect our commitment to improve the walleye fishery as quickly as possible and stay within the state’s 1837 Treaty safe harvest allocation yet continue to provide walleye angling opportunities,” said Don Pereira, fisheries chief for the DNR.

The 2015 regulations for Mille Lacs Lake are:

  • Walleye – Limit of one and the fish must be 19- to 21-inches long or longer than 28 inches. Night closure from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. May 11 to Dec. 1.
  • Northern pike – Limit of 10. One fish may be longer than 30 inches only if two fish shorter than 30 inches are caught on the same trip and in possession.
  • Bass – Limit of six smallmouth and largemouth bass in combination. Only one smallmouth bass may be longer than 18 inches.

Mille Lacs’ 2015 walleye safe harvest level was reduced from 60,000 to 40,000 pounds in 2015 so more fish potentially survive and spawn to improve the walleye population. State anglers can harvest up to 28,600 pounds of walleye. The eight Chippewa bands with 1837 Treaty harvest rights can harvest up to 11,400 pounds of walleye.

Last year, Mille Lacs anglers could keep two walleye 18- to 20-inches long or one longer than 28 inches.

A night fishing closure, enforced from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., will begin Monday, May 11, and extend to Tuesday, Dec. 1.

“This set of regulations is designed to minimize the likelihood that a catch-and-release only walleye fishing regulation would be needed later in the season to stay within the state’s safe harvest allocation,” Pereira said.

Like last year, anglers may keep up to 10 northern pike. A change – suggested and supported by the Mille Lacs input group – this year allows one of those fish to be longer than 30 inches only if an angler has first caught at least two northerns shorter than 30 inches on the same trip and has them in immediate possession. Angling season for northern pike runs from May 9 through March 27, 2016.

“There was too much pressure on large northern pike last year when anglers and spearers could harvest one fish longer than 30 inches without restriction,” Pereira said. “So this year we’re experimenting with an earn-a-trophy concept that requires anglers to harvest more abundant smaller fish before they can take home a big fish.”

Mille Lacs’ relaxed smallmouth bass regulations remain in effect. The smallmouth bass season begins May 9 and allows anglers to harvest smallmouth bass from the walleye opener until the last Sunday in February 2016. Anglers may keep six smallmouth and largemouth bass in combination, but only one smallmouth bass may be longer than 18 inches.

“The continuation of liberal northern pike and smallmouth bass regulations speak to the fact these species can withstand additional pressure because their populations are at or near record highs,” Pereira said. “The current walleye regulation and the extended night fishing closure will protect upcoming year classes of young walleye and adult spawning stock, and help ensure the harvest stays within the safe harvest level.”

There will be two exceptions to the night fishing ban this year for muskellunge and bow fishing. Beginning Monday, June 8, muskellunge anglers may fish at night with artificial lures longer than 8 inches or sucker minnows longer than 8 inches. Bow fishing for rough fish only also will be allowed at night beginning June 8 provided no angling equipment is in a boat.

“Night muskie fishing and bow fishing for rough fish are popular on Mille Lacs,” Pereira said. “Last year, all boats had to be off the water at night. This year, we’ve listened to stakeholders and adjusted the regulations to accommodate night fishing methods that are expected to have no impact on the walleye we’re trying to protect.”

Pereira said the suite of regulations reflects significant fish population changes at Mille Lacs. Walleye numbers are at a 40-year low. Northern pike numbers are at record highs. The smallmouth bass population has been increasing since the 1990s. Tullibee and perch populations, both important forage species, are relatively low.

Fish populations likely are being influenced by many factors including a management approach that focused too much walleye harvest on too narrow a size range of fish. An adequate number of spawners remain in the lake and sufficient walleye continue to hatch each year. The problem is that since 2008, not enough young walleye are surviving to maturity and replenishing the population.

“We’re encouraged by walleye hatched in 2013,” Pereira said. “That year class shows strong signs that more of those fish are surviving and will mature.”

Other factors contributing to the changing fishery on Mille Lacs and possibly influencing the survival of young walleye include clearer water that may limit suitable habitat and increase vulnerability to predation, longer growing seasons related to climate change that may favor other species, and the indirect impacts of a variety of invasive species in the lake, including zebra mussels, spiny water fleas and Eurasian watermilfoil.

“Mille Lacs is a system under change and portions of that change began even prior to the intensive management that began in the late 1990s,” said Pereira. “The good news is that we have more than enough spawning walleye and a history of solid egg and fry production. What we need is for the walleye that hatch to grow into strong year classes for anglers to catch. That hasn’t happened since 2008. That’s why we are focused on protecting small walleye and our ample but declining walleye spawning stock.”

Pereira added that the agency is also committed to the long-term protection of the lake’s trophy smallmouth and trophy northern pike fisheries. The experimental earn-a-trophy restriction on pike implemented this year was done to protect large fish, which were harvested last year at rate not sustainable in the long-term.

Information on Mille Lacs management can be found at This year’s fishing regulations are on the DNR website at

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Questions abound as Twins seek turnaround season Mon, 06 Apr 2015 23:38:14 +0000 As if rookie manager Paul Molitor didn’t have enough to worry about, he woke up one morning last week and found out that prized free agent pitching acquisition Ervin Santana had been suspended for 80 games.
The Twins had gambled four years and $55 million on Santana to help a beleaguered pitching staff. Now he won’t be around until July.
But there were plenty of other questions surrounding the team when the season opened Monday.
The Twins finalized their bullpen last week by sending veteran Caleb Thielbar to the minors. thus giving rookie J.R. Graham the final spot on the Opening Day roster.
Lefty Thielbar, a Minnesota native, had a 2.59 ERA the past two seasons in 93 innings with the Twins.
Graham, a right-hander, spent the last three seasons with the Atlanta Braves’ Class AA team in Mississippi and had a 5-9 record and 36 starts. He was 1-5 in 19 starts last season with a high ERA of 5.58.
Graham will be a reliever with the Twins and maybe the switch to the bullpen will produce good results.
But Graham making the team over a veteran left-hander like Thielbar is certainly a question mark.
And that’s just one of the question marks for a team picked by USA Today last week to finish last in the five-team Central Division.
Two of the bigger questions are if Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas can repeat the success they enjoyed as rookies in 2014 when both were pleasant surprises.
Can 39-year-old Torii Hunter, apparently the team’s cleanup hitter at this point, produce one more good year as the team waits for Byron Buxton to fulfill his promise? The Twins gambled $10.5 million that he can.
Will Joe Mauer get back to form or has his career peaked at an early age?
Can Molitor, with zero experience as a manager, change things after four losing seasons that have driven many season ticket holders away?
Is Ricky Nolasco going to pitch like he did in 2013 with the Dodgers or is he going to be another free-agent bust for the Twins (4 years, $49 million)?
Will Phil Hughes repeat his remarkable 2014 season when he had 16 wins and struck out 186 while walking only 16?
And now that Santana is suspended, can veteran Mike Pelfrey find success while taking over that spot in the rotation? And if he can’t, will Trevor May or Alex Meyer be summoned from Rochester to fill that void?
The questions go on and on, with the most important ones concerning the pitching staff.
The team’s starters had an ERA of 5.06 last year, worst in the majors. And that performance wasn’t a one-time thing.
The team’s starters were also last the year before with a 5.26 ERA, next to last in 2012 at 5.40, and 26th among 30 in 2011 at 4.64.
In other words, no other team has had worse starters than the Twins the past four years.
Neil Allen, the new pitching coach who had the same job with Tampa Bay’s Class AAA team in 2014, thinks he has an idea to improve things in 2015.
He wants the pitchers to throw more changeups, citing the fact that over the last three years Minnesota pitchers have thrown 2,000 fewer  changeups than any other major league team.
That figures out to 4.1 changeups a game over the three years. Is that enough to make a difference?
You wouldn’t think so but maybe the philosophical difference will be important,
At first blush the pitching staff looks better than it did in 2014, although that picture blurs with the absence of Santana.
Let’s say that Hughes replicates his 2014 season and that the emergence of Kyle Gibson (13-12 in 2014) is not a one-year miracle.
Can Nolasco and Tommy Milone, the No. 5 starter who was a good pitcher with Oakland, get back to form after their disappointing 2014 seasons.
Rookie reliever Graham, in his first appearance after making the team, got only one out while giving up six hits and six runs last Thursday night against the Red Sox.
True, that’s only one game. And it came against a good lineup.
But it typifies the question marks that abound for the team as the season opened.
The bookies (oddsmakers, if you will) give the Twins a 100-1 chance to make the World Series. And their over/under for wins is 72.5, about where it was in 2014 when they finished 70-92 despite scoring the most runs in the Central Division.
USA Today lists the team 27th out of 30 in its power rankings, and six out of seven of the New York Post’s baseball writers picked the Twins last in their division.
So the experts have the Twins bringing up the rear once again. And that’s not a surprise.
What needs to happen to change that predicted finish? There must be positive outcomes for most of the question marks that surround the team, pitching the top one.
The second half of last season the Twins were third in the major leagues in runs scored. Is that for real?
If it is, and IF the pitching is markedly better, it should be a better season than last.
TWINS NOTES: Brian Dozier was ranked fifth among all major league second basemen by the New York Post. Those ahead of him are Jose Altuve of Houston, Anthony Rendon of Washington, Robinson Cano of Seattle, and Jason Kipnis of Cleveland . . .  One of the more intriguing prospects in the organization is 23-year-old Adam Brett Walker, drafted in 2012 out of Jacksonvile University. The Twins haven’t said much about him but he’s put up some interesting numbers in three years in the minors. Walker, an outfielder, hit 14 homers in his rookie league season at Elizabethton, 27 with 109 RBIs at Class A Cedar Rapids in 2013, and 25 with 94 RBIs at Class A (higher level) Fort Myers last season. Those 66 home runs have come in only 1,245 at-bats, or one every 19 at-bats. That’s a good ratio. He has also struck out 347 times, once every 3.6 at-bats, not a good ratio. But by today’s standards, the strikeouts aren’t a big deal for some. Watched him two balls to the warning track against Baltimore in Sarasota recently and then last Thursday night he homered against the Red Sox. Others in the Twins’ minor league system are getting more publicity  but Walker could surprise . . . To no one’s surprise, Alexi Casilla was released by Tampa Bay last week, although he was close to making the 25-man roster. The Yankees released Scott Baker on March 29 after a decent spring but the Dodgers were reportedly considering signing him. Baker, 33, was 63-48 (.568)  with the Twins and had seasons of 11, 15 and 12 wins . . .  The average salary in the majors broke $4 million for the first time ever when the season opened Monday. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers tops the list at $33 million and the Dodgers have a record payroll of $270 million. The average salary is projected at $4.25 million, up from $3.95 million when the season began last year and $3.65 million in 2013. The average salary was about $50,000 in 1976, the last year before free agency went into effect.


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Some surprises as Twins head north in a few days Thu, 02 Apr 2015 21:08:38 +0000 sports baseball 5 copy
It’s hard to figure out if new manager Paul Molitor is trying to send a message or if he really thinks it will work to have Shane Robinson and Jordan Schafer platoon in center field.
Both have been fringe players in their careers.
Robinson has a .231 average in five seasons with the Cardinals, 1 homer every 80 at-bats, and an on-base percentage of .303.
Schafer, in five seasons, is hitting. 229, has a homer every 102 at-bats, and an on-base percentage of .311.
Aaron Hicks, thought  to be the starting center fielder by many, has hit .201 in his two seasons in the majors, has an on-base percentage of .293, and a homer every 50 at-bats.
Hicks missed a relay man the other day, costing the Twins a double play, and earlier in the season didn’t run on a ball hit with two outs, forgetting the number of outs.
Is Molitor sending a message to Hicks and other players? Or is he convinced that the other two can do the job together? (Hicks does have one option left, by the way.)
I’ve speculated all spring that Molitor would give us a surprise or two and the move to send Hicks to the minors was one.
The other, as this is written a week before the season opens, was that Tommy Milone was chosen over Mike Pelfrey for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
It’s easy to understand Pelfrey being disappointed, as well as suspicious that he wasn’t given a fair shot at the No. 5 slot in the Twins rotation.
He had a 1.32 ERA for the spring and Milone‘s was 4.50 at the time Milone was chosen for No. 5 by Molitor.
They had pitched the same number of innings this spring and Pelfrey had been decidedly better.
Pelfrey wondered last Saturday if the decision had been predetermined. It’s easy to understand Pelfrey’s disappointment, given the performances of the two.
By Sunday, however, Pelfrey was a bit contrite and espoused the company line while saying he was going to embrace his new role after a talk with general manager Terry Ryan.

Starting rotation better?
Here’s how the starting rotation looks now that Pelfrey has been sent to the bullpen.
(Despite Molitor planning to set the bullpen by last weekend, it hadn’t happened as this was written Monday.)
Phil Hughes – 16-10 last season, 3.52 ERA, 209 innings pitched, 32 starts. If he can come close to that, Molitor would be happy.
Ervin Santana – 14-10 with Atlanta, 3.95, 196 IP, 31 starts. A similar season in Minnesota would be welcomed with open arms.
Ricky Nolasco – 6-12, 5.38, 159 IP, 27 starts. Slowed a bit by an injury in 2014, Nolasco needs to be much better in 2015. He looked good against the Oriole Saturday in Sarasota. Curve was sharp.
Kyle Gibson – 13-12, 4;47, 179 IP, 31 starts. Was very good in his winning starts last season but struggled mightily in the losses. Must be more consistent. (Saw him pitch six great innings against Tampa Bay last week.)
Tommy Milone – 6-4, 4.19, 118 IP, 21 starts. Was 6-3 with Oakland, 3.55 ERA, before coming to the Twins where he pitched horribly, apparently injured. Only lefty starter – could be a big help.

Questions in the bullpen
Holdovers Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Casey Fien will be in the bullpen with Pelfrey, a career starter.
Former Padre Tim Stauffer (6-2, 3.50, 44 games in 2014) will likely be there with Blaine Boyer,  a 33-year-old surprise who pitched in 32 games with the Padres last year after being out of baseball for a couple years. He’s had a good spring. Boyer was 0-1, 3.57 in 40 innings last season.
Since Molitor plans to carry 12 pitchers, not 13 like Ron Gardenhire did at times, that leaves one spot open with lefties Caleb Thielbar and Aaron Thompson and rookie righty J.R. Graham in the mix.
Or will GM Ryan make a trade before next Monday to shore up what some say is a suspect bullpen?
A statistic not known by some Twins fans is that Minnesota was seventh in runs scored last season among 30 teams in the majors.
If Joe Mauer can get going again (it’s been a couple years now), and Torii Hunter comes close to matching his 83-RBI season of 2014 with the Tigers, that kind of run production would lead to a better season – IF the pitching staff shows improvement.
Pitching is, for sure, the biggest issue for the Twins.
But there are lots of other question marks.
For instance, will Molitor make a difference as a manager? He’s the third-oldest manager in the majors (he’s older than Gardenhire) and has never managed before. He’s an X factor right now.
We’ll take a look at some of those question marks next week.

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Wolves on track at indoor meet in Becker Thu, 02 Apr 2015 20:59:20 +0000 Jake Olson, front, takes a hand-off from teammate Reese Sandberg in the 4x200m Relay. Their foursome took sixth in the event.

Jake Olson, front, takes a hand-off from teammate Reese Sandberg in the 4x200m Relay. Their foursome took sixth in the event.

The Milaca Wolves track and field teams competed in their second meet of the season at the Granite Ridge Conference Indoor Track & Field Meet in Becker Friday, March 27.
Both the Milaca boys’ and girls’ teams each placed fifth out of eight teams.
“We feel that’s good for where we’re at right now and considering the schools we run up against,” said Wolves’ boys’ coach Jeremy Mikla. “There’s a lot of good kids in this conference and we feel that we placed pretty well.”
The St. Cloud Cathedral girls and Foley boys were the team champions.
Allie Terpstra, a senior, led the Wolves by winning both the 55m hurdles and the triple jump in record-setting fashion. Her time of 8.88 in the 55m hurdles is a new Conference indoor meet record.
“She had an amazing day,” Mikla exclaimed. “She had top-notch performances in both of those events.”
Terpstra’s triple jump of 33’9.5” was also good for a meet record and was only two inches off a Milaca school record.
“She is just an all-around athlete,” Mikla stressed. “One of the best skills that she brings to the team is that she’s able to do just about anything. She can only be in four events, so we have to pick and choose (her events).”
Caitlin Richardson, meanwhile, followed up her school-record performance from the previous week in St. Cloud with another excellent day in shot put.
Her throw of 33’9” was only two inches short of last week.
“Last year, she kind of took the conference by storm and made a name for herself as a freshman,” Mikla said. “And she stepped back in that role this year and now she’s kind of the person to beat in the area when it comes to the shot put.”
Other Milaca highlights included Kendall Rensenbrink, who ran an excellent indoor 400, placing third in just her second track meet.
Karna Terpstra equaled her performance from the previous week, placing second in the high jump.
On the boys’ side, the Wolves’ Josiah Forker had a good meet with a triple jump of 38’3” that was his best of the year so far and led to a first-place finish.
He also added a pair of fifth-place finishes in the pole vault and the 55m dash.
“He’s one of our senior leaders on the boys’ side of things,” Mikla explained. “He didn’t pole vault as well as he would have wanted to on Friday but he had a great day in the triple jump.”
Dylan Hakes, meanwhile, had a great day vaulting, placing third with a season-best jump of 10-6.
“He had a much better day vaulting, which is kind of a hard thing (to do) this early in the season,” Mikla explained. “We don’t really get a chance to do pole vaulting in practice because it’s too cold outside and we don’t have the ability to do it indoors.”
Milaca’s Brody Sather threw the shot put 40’9” which also earned him a fifth-place finish.
The Wolves started their season March 21 in St. Cloud. Team scores were not recorded at this meet, said Mikla,
“It gave the kids a chance to put to the test some of the things that they have been working on and training in practice,” he explained. “We looked at how kids are doing individually and are they progressing? Maybe, we could find a few kids that surprised us.
“It was really a chance to work out against other teams.”
Some of the highlights featured Richardson improving upon her own school record, which she set last spring, with a throw of 33’11” in the shot put that placed her second.
Allie Terpstra raced to third place in the hurdles while Tara Airhart vaulted 8-0, which was second in the girls’ pole vault. Forker, meanwhile, led the way for the boys with a third-place finish in the pole vault, clearing 11-0.
Jon Hall ran his way to a sixth-place finish in the boys’ 1600.
“Overall, it was a solid start for the first meet of the year,” Mikla said. “It is great to have so many kids get some valuable early-season experience.”
The Wolves will have this week off from competition and then will host a meet Tuesday, April 7 in Milaca.

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Wolves well represented at all-star games Thu, 02 Apr 2015 20:46:32 +0000 The Milaca Wolves were well represented at the conference all-star games in Pierz on Saturday, March 28.sports all star  MVPs
Levi Hunt played in the boys’ game while Makayla Paggen, Ashley Cassens and Alex Ploeger represented Milaca in the girls’ game. Mike Garber was also invited to play in the boys’ game but was unable to attend.
Hunt was his usual dominating self, leading his Granite Ridge Conference to a 107-95 overtime victory over Central Minnesota Conference. Hunt scored 10 points in the first two minutes of the OT on his way to scoring 26 points.
Hunt was deservedly named the game’s most valuable player.
“I felt like I was struggling because it took me a few shots to knock down my first one but after that I felt like I was rolling,” said Hunt, who finished the game with six three pointers.
Hunt said the all-star game was different than playing in a regular game for the Wolves.
“It’s a whole new game,” he explained. “It was fun playing against guys that love the game just as much as you do. It was a whole new experience. The game was just going out there and having fun. We weren’t playing hard defense or anything like that.”
Winning the MVP award in the game was a fitting way for Hunt to end a stellar high school career.
“I wasn’t expecting it just because of the way the game was rolling,” said Hunt, a Wolves’ captain. “It was a real nice honor and I felt really good about myself. It was a great way to close out my basketball career in high school.”
Hunt said the experience of playing high school basketball for the Wolves was a real good one. He said it looks like he will play next season for the University of Northwestern in St. Paul.
“It was a great atmosphere to play in and it was a great group of guys to be a part of,” he said. “It’s a pretty cliché thing, but what a lot of what people do is because of their teammates. Whether you’re on the court, or you’re pushing each other in practice, it’s about your team and everything that your team has done for you.”
In the girls’ all-star game, Paggen scored 18 points in her team’s 53-42 loss to Central Minnesota Conference. She was also named her game’s MVP.
Ploeger, meanwhile, said it was enjoyable to play in the all-star game to end her high school career.
“It was fun getting to play with all of my competitors and seeing them as my teammates instead of competitors,” she said. “The game was definitely more defensive, we played with all guards, so it was definitely more full court.”
The talent level of the players was real good, said Ploeger.
“Some of those girls could really play defense, pick the balls and steal, and it was fun watching them go up the court,” said Ploeger, who will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Stout in the fall. “And because we were all guards, some of them could shoot three pointers and having them shoot three pointers all of the time was way different.”

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Senior champions at 3-on-3 Wed, 01 Apr 2015 21:16:10 +0000 sports bb seniors

The Milaca senior girls took first place in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament on Saturday, March 28 in Pierz. The team, pictured left to right, consisted of Alex Ploeger, Ashley Cassens, Tara Dusharm, and Makayla Paggen. Dusharm, who plays for Foley High School, joined the Milaca girls for the tourney.

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Is Milaca Elementary prepared for all-day preschool? Wed, 01 Apr 2015 21:12:13 +0000 There are now 57,479 students in Minnesota who are benefiting from all-day, every day kindergarten initiative that was implemented in 2013. Governor Mark Dayton led the charge for the major investment of $134 million he and the Minnesota legislature made.
Milaca Elementary first began offering free, all-day, every day kindergarten in 2011-2012, nearly two years before Dayton’s initiative. The greatest challenge for the district continues to be finding space for additional classrooms, said Elementary Principal Steve Voshell.
“We are fortunate to have an outstanding group of teachers in our kindergarten program and we are continually assessing the effectiveness of our kindergarten curriculum and instructional strategies. All-day, every day kindergarten offers students additional time for developing academic and social-emotional skills. Minnesota schools are expected to meet rigorous standards at all grade levels, including kindergarten. The additional instructional time is critical given the increased expectations placed on students and schools,” said Voshell.
Milaca Elementary experienced an increase in kindergarten enrollment from approximately 142 students last year to approximately 149 students this year. Voshell said a smaller kindergarten group is expected for the 2015-2016 school year.
In addition to the kindergarten initiative, Governor Dayton has another plan on the horizon for the state to invest $347 million into a similar all-day preschool program for four-year-old children.
“Even before Governor Dayton began working to invest in all-day preschool, Milaca was discussing ways to increase preschool enrollment, especially for the four-year-old students. We currently enroll about 60 percent of potential four-year-old students. This does not include families choosing other preschool programs,” Voshell said.
Milaca schools currently offer four sections of all-day preschool for four-year-olds and one section for three-year-olds. Each section meets two to three times a week. The school does not offer an all-day, everyday program for these age groups right now.
Voshell believes there is a need for all-day preschool, but can foresees an even greater need for all students to enroll in a preschool program, all-day or otherwise, prior to starting kindergarten.
If Dayton’s plan takes action, Milaca Elementary will adjust by finding additional space and hiring more staff to accommodate future preschool programming, as well as purchase additional curriculum and supplies, Voshell said.  

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Time Out with Luther Dorr: Time for highly-ranked minor league system to produce Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:25:03 +0000 The intent this week was to focus on the Twins’ pitching staff as the team seeks to shore up the weakest part of the team the past few seasons.
However, there are still too many slots up in the air, although some hurlers – notably, Alex Meyer – have been sent to the minors for various reasons.
So we’ll concentrate this week again on the younger players, some still in the running to make the roster. As of Monday there were 41 players still in camp – 17 pitchers, 6 catchers, 10 infielders and 8 outfielders.
The team has slowed a bit as far as wins and losses, and the barrage of homers has slowed even more, although we always need to remind ourselves that spring stats are often meaningless.
Those stats can often be misleading, as was the case in a game between the Twins and Rays last week when starter Ricky Nolasco’s stats looked bad when his defense was horrible.

Can Santana, Vargas do what they did last season?
Kennys Vargas was hitting .281 when he came up from AA ball last season.
He then hit .274 in 53 games (215 at-bats), hit 9 homers and drove in 39 runs.
Those were fairly impressive totals for someone who was never ranked in the top 100 of minor league prospects.
Last September pitchers started getting him out with regularity on pitches out of the strike zone. True, that also happens to veterans, but it was really apparent that Vargas was chasing off-speed pitches.
Danny Santana, also not ranked in the top 100, had an outstanding rookie season with the Twins and was passable in center field.
A shortstop by trade, Santana was hitting only ..268 in AAA ball when called up by the Twins. He hit .319, had 27 doubles, 7 homers and stole 20 bases in 101 games (405 at-bats).
He, like Vargas who struck out once every 3.4 at-bats, showed a propensity for striking out, doing it once every 4.1 at-bats.
Some will argue that the number of strikeouts isn’t important if a player produces, as those two did. I agree but I’m sure the manager would like to see the number of strikeouts reduced.
Can Vargas and Santana not only match last year’s performance but improve? That’s the question that won’t be answered for a few months, although Santana has had a great spring so far, batting .394.
Muddying the waters for the manager, in a good way, has been the performance of Eddie Rosario, a second baseman who will end up elsewhere in the field as long as Brian Dozier is with the Twins.
He hit only .237 at Class AA New Britain last season after serving a 50-game suspension but then led the Arizona fall league in hitting.
He has some power, hitting 21 homers in a rookie minor league, and has homered twice this spring.
Manager Paul Molitor says he hasn’t considered moving Santana back to center field (he’s playing shortstop this spring) if Aaron Hicks and others fail. But there is speculation that Rosario could make the move to center, much like Santana did last season.
There’s another problem for Molitor, albeit a good one.
Eduardo Escobar, a fill-in at shortstop last season, did a passable job in the field and  hit .275 with a surprising 35 doubles and 6 homers in 433 at-bats. (He struck out once every 4.8 at-bats.)
He’s hitting .375 this spring and has a team-leading 11 RBIs.
Will he be a utility player if Santana is the shortstop? Or will he go back to short if Santana goes to center field? What about Rosario -where does he fit in? Or doesn’t he?
Molitor plans to make his bullpen choices by this weekend. One wonders if he will do the same with his outfield and infield.
The Twins are ranked as having the third-best minor league system, behind the Cubs and Red Sox. The organization has five players ranked in the top 36 in all of the minors, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano being the top ones.
There’s also 20-year-old pitcher Jose Berrios, impressive this spring, and reliever Nick Burdi who has a fastball that tops out near 100 mph. And infielder Nick Gordon, brother of major leaguer Dee Gordon, is promising.
It seems time for some of this promise to start being fulfilled. Santana and Vargas showed promise last year and now Rosario shows promise, with Sano and Buxton in the category of “it’s about time.”
Molitor has the task of sorting all of that out and the fans get to give their opinions about who should play and who shouldn’t. Let’s hope the right decisions are made.

Some bullpen spots, No. 5 starter still to be decided
The best pitching performance I’ve witnessed this spring came last Saturday when Trevor May pitched four hitless innings in a game against the Rays at Port Charlotte.
There were only two balls hit out of the infield and he was regularly ahead on the count. Since May struggled much of his rookie year in 2014, those four innings gave some hope for 2015. And he has a 1.50 ERA so far this spring.
Four spots are set in the rotation: Phil Hughes, Erwin Santana, Kyle Gibson and Ricky Nolasco.
Now, with Alex Meyer back to the minors because of control problems, it’ll be May, Mike Pelfrey or Tommy Milone in the No. 5 slot.
I’d like to see Milone there, simply because he’s a lefty. But Pelfrey has pitched better so far and had another good outing on Monday this week.
They say Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Brian Duensing and Tim Stauffer, an acquisition from the Padres, have bullpen slots locked up. Molitor plans to carry 12 pitchers so that leaves three jobs open.
You can plan on a surprise here also. The most intriguing player is 33-year-old Blaine Boyer, a guy who stayed out of baseball for awhile. Local boy Mark Hamburger is a favorite of some.
Molitor’s pitching decisions will likely be more important than those concerning position players.

BASEBALL SHORTS: Francisco Liriano, a pitcher the Twins gave up on, will be the Opening Day pitcher for the Pirates for the second straight year. His fastball averaged 93 mph last season. He’s had a good spring so far . . .  Another player the Twins gave up on, and could have used in the lineup the last couple years, is Delmon Young. He homered off Perkins last Saturday . . . Michael Cuddyer hit his third homer of the spring for the Mets last weekend . . . Did you know Phil Hughes set a major league record last season by posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 11.63? What a change of scenery will do . . . Former Twins still hanging around the majors are LaTroy Hawkins at Colorado, A. J. Pierzynski at Atlanta, Alexi Casilla at Tampa Bay and Scott Baker with the Yankees. Hawkins has been in the major leagues for 20 years and 1,000 games now, 9 of those years with the Twins, They let him go after a 9-3 year and a 1.86 ERA.

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Milaca archers win state title Tue, 24 Mar 2015 01:00:23 +0000 The state championship Milaca Archery team.

The state championship Milaca Archery team.

The Milaca Wolves archery team brought home the gold on Saturday, March 21 after winning the state elementary school archery championship at Champlin Park High School.
The Wolves were among 1,400 archers competing in the tournament. The team scored 3,038 points, edging Foley (2,982 points) and Hill City (2,891 points) to win the title. The team is now qualified to compete in the May national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. Four Milaca archers also qualified for the national tournament in individual competition by finishing in the top 10 in their division.
Milaca’s highest individual finisher invited to nations is Haley Juetten, who finished in third place in the elementary female division. Cole Fruedenburg (5th place, elementary male), Hunter Schwanke (8th place, elementary male), and Connor Wojciechowski (9th place, elementary male) also earned invitations to the national meet.
The four archers join their teammates Silas Evans, Hunter Bockoven, Kylie Blake, Shaylee Koenig, Tanner Farnick, Avree Patchen, Kayla Gave, Morgan Majerus, Erika Kotsmith, Ruby Hirsch, Wade Cagle, Owen Peterson, Luke Williams, Dillon Molacek, and Ashley Juetten on the first-place team that has been invited to nationals.

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Wolves’ win sixth grade girls’ championship Wed, 18 Mar 2015 04:17:09 +0000 sports 6th grade girls2

It’s no secret that defense helps win championships.
And the Milaca Wolves No. 2 sixth grade girls’ basketball team proved that theory correct once again, as the local squad bounced their way to a Minnesota Youth Athletic Services State Tournament title recently in Bloomington.
The Wolves, representing the Milaca Youth Basketball Association, won the “C” championship with a convincing 29-12 victory over Byron.
Milaca used a stifling defense to completely shut down Byron. The Wolves led throughout the contest.
“The defense all weekend long was better, I think, than we had all season,” said Wolves’ coach Kurt Kragt. “That was kind of the key.”
To reach the championship game, Milaca trounced Winona 32-13 in a semifinal matchup.
Milaca started the tournament with an impressive 36-24 comeback victory over City of Lakes (Minneapolis). Milaca trailed by as many as eight points in the game but cut that deficit to just two at halftime.
“Just like the other games, our defense took over in the second half,” Kragt said. “That first game was definitely our biggest challenge. But it was a big confidence booster because (our girls) started to believe that they could stop the other teams and that they could play good defense.”
In the Wolves’ next game, Milaca defeated Red Wing 28-15.
Leading scorers for Milaca in the tournament were Oliva Westling with 52 points, while Jackie Kragt added 45.
Offensively, Kragt said the Wolves did a good job utilizing screens and pick-and-rolls.
“We have some girls that have really figured out to set a good screen,” Kragt noted. “And we used that screen-and-roll and the give-and-go, which were definitely our strong points.”
The Wolves’ season, which started at the end of October, featured several weekend tournaments over the course of five months. The Milaca No. 2  sixth grade girls’ team won the championship at a Kimball tournament earlier in the season. The Wolves also placed third at an Isle tournament.
Kragt said the Wolves improved significantly over the course of the season.
“They went from not really being sure what defense was, I don’t think, at the beginning to really understanding their positions.”

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