The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

First, they got the word that players could take off their masks while competing. Now, as the spring seasons head for their climax, there’s a sense that high school sports are slowly returning to their old routines.

By the time most people read this, prep athletes will be immersed in sectional play. In baseball, Central has won its third Saint Paul City Conference championship in four seasons. Highland Park, which tied with Central for the softball crown last year, claimed it outright this year. The difference was Highland’s 9-5 win over Central on May 10. 

Central also finished second in boys’ tennis. Its sole conference setback was a 6-1 season-opening loss to undefeated Harding.

Track and field boils down to City Conference finals on May 25-27 at Harding. It’s the same for boys’ golf, when all players were set to tee it up on May 24 at Keller Golf Course.

Last winter, section play was held on the home courts and fields of the top seeds. Softball and baseball will do that for the first couple of rounds this spring, but the semifinals and finals will be held on neutral sites with paid admission.

“There aren’t a lot of options,” noted Central athletic director Treacy Funk. “It’s also a chance to make a little money.” 

Like a lot of athletic directors, Funk watched coaches closely as they got back in gear this spring. “It was really hard because several kids hadn’t played for two years,” she said. “It took a while for coaches to get reacquainted and see what they had to work with.” 

One negative of taking classes online due to the pandemic was some schools saw a drop in numbers on their spring rosters. “You had kids who hadn’t been coming to school,” Funk said. “A lot of them also didn’t play last summer. We’re hoping the numbers pick up again this fall.”

Funk was asked about the experiment with winter section games being played on-site. “I liked the atmosphere,” she said. “I think it can be a better experience.”

Basketball was no problem because every school has a gym. Hockey can be trickier getting ice time, but it seemed to work just fine this year.

“I used to umpire high school games years ago,” Auran said, “and I still had all my gear. I told the coaches in advance that it would be a big strike zone. The coaches understand it’s important to keep the game moving.”

The Minnesota State High School League had to do a little scrambling, but things are falling into place for state tournaments in June. Boys’ tennis goes first from June 8-11 in Saint Cloud and Prior Lake. Softball in North Mankato and golf at various courses around the state will follow from June 15-16. Track and field is moving from Hamline University to Saint Michael from June 17-19. No site has been determined for the lacrosse tournaments on June 15-19. 

Baseball had to make some adjustments. The Class AAAA quarterfinals and semifinals have traditionally been played at CHS Field in downtown Saint Paul. However, the combination of the Saints playing more games as a Triple-A club for the Twins and the Twins needing it for other activities have made scheduling there difficult. As a result, the AAAA quarterfinals and semifinals are headed to Chaska from June 15-16. AAA will be nearby in Jordan, while A and AA will convene in Saint Cloud. The state finals in all four classes are set to be played on June 18 at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. 

Highland AD fills in where needed 

As Highland Park athletic director Pat Auran found out this spring, the ramifications of the pandemic extended far and wide. Officials for varsity events are assigned by the various associations that handle the sports. Junior varsity and ninth-grade games, however, are often another matter. A lack of available officials forced Auran to expand his supervisory role to include calling balls and strikes at several of the Scots’ JV baseball games this spring.

“I used to umpire high school games years ago,” Auran said, “and I still had all my gear. I told the coaches in advance that it would be a big strike zone. The coaches understand it’s important to keep the game moving.”

Auran acknowledged, with a laugh, that the players didn’t always see it that way.

Although it wasn’t the primary reason for doing so, it also saved the Scots the $80 fee an umpire would normally get for working a game. “Because of COVID restrictions, we’re supposed to provide supervision at home games anyway. I just took that to a different level,” Auran said.

Fortunately for him, none of the games he worked were as outrageous as the Scots’ varsity game against Harding on May 5. That afternoon, it looked bleak for the home team when the Knights scored nine runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 21-6 lead.

Then Highland started hitting…and hitting…and hitting. The Scots scored 13 runs in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to two runs. They added a run in the fifth and poured on five more in the sixth for a 25-21 win.

It was a game to remember—for one team anyway.

Auran was naturally pleased with the final result. However, as an occasional umpire he noted sadly, “It took three hours and 23 minutes.”

Capital City Football initial season a success 

Chuck Miesbauer sounded like a proud papa. One of the guiding lights of the Capital City Football MN league whose season recently concluded, the Cretin-Derham Hall head football coach was pleased with the final results.

“We had six teams at four levels,” Miesbauer said. “It went for four weeks and each team got to play eight games.”

The youngest level saw kindergartners and first-graders playing flag football. The other three levels—grades 2-3, 4-5 and 6-8—played in a 7-on-7 league. The relatively new tackle bar was used at the upper levels. The youngest-level teams had eight players, while the upper ones had 10-12 kids.

“We ended up with about 250 players,” Miesbauer said. “It was a good mix of kids from private and public schools. I think it all went very well.” 

Capital City Football
Lucas Pawlicki, 9, carries the ball while pursued by Henry Fox during a flag football game on May 2 sponsored by Capital City Football at Cretin-Derham Hall. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Miesbauer hopes to team up with nearby youth football associations to form a second league this fall. Before that happens, however, he’s hoping to get CDH’s 2021 high school football schedule in place.

“Every day in the lunchroom, I probably have five kids ask me if I know the schedule yet,” he said. “All I can say for sure is the first practice is August 16.” 

The culprit is football’s districting plan. The member schools of the various districts have changed this year and athletic directors are still working to get an eight-game slate in place.

For most schools, this isn’t a big problem. However, with no football stadium on the CDH campus, Miesbauer has to go shopping once he knows his schedule. For years, CDH has played at O’Shaughnessy Stadium at the University of Saint Thomas. But with the Tommies moving to Division I this fall and not in possession of its own schedule yet, the stadium’s availability is unknown.

Thus, the Raiders need to stay in contact with schools like Macalester, Hamline, Concordia and Northwestern—all of which have lighted fields—to see what kind of arrangements can be made. It’s further complicated because Saint Agnes, which also doesn’t have a stadium on campus, has been playing home games at Hamline and Concordia ever since Midway Stadium was demolished.

“I’m hoping to know who and where we’re playing in the next couple of weeks,” Miesbauer said.

Dave Wright can be reached at


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