Hopkins youth team places third at state softball tournament

Maddie Bernt of the Hopkins Royals 10-and-Under girls fastpitch softball team deserved a rest following the recent Minnesota Metro state tournament in Lexington.

Bernt pitched all but one inning as the Royals posted a 6-2 record and took third place. There were 21 teams in the two-day state tournament.

“Our success was awesome,” said head coach Debbie Irrgang after the tournament.

Bernt’s pitching was only one of the keys, but to be successful, every fastpitch team must have someone to throw strikes.

“At the 10U level, girls mainly work on one pitch,” said Irrgang. “Maddie is just starting to throw the changeup as her second pitch.”

To earn third place at state, the Hopkins girls had little time to rest. They played eight games in two days – three on Saturday and five on Sunday.

The Royals opened with wins over Tartan Blue (12-7) and Soderville (12-1) before losing the third game on Saturday to the eventual champion, Silver Bullets I.

Hopkins defeated Anoka, Eastview, Silver Bullets II and Princeton on Sunday. In the fifth game of the day, Silver Bullets I ended the Royals’ run.

Scoring was no problem for the Royals, except in the games with Silver Bullets I.

“Our offense was on fire,” said Irrgang. “We didn’t hit any home runs, but everyone on the team hit.”

At the 10U level, runners are allowed to steal bases, but there is no stealing home, Irrgang said.

“We use a pitching machine to get the players used to faster pitching,” the coach noted.

Hopkins relied on sure-handed infield players. Annika Crouser was a fixture at first base and Ashley Cortez played second. Annabelle Hilson held down shortstop. Grace Hillen and Maggie Nicholson alternated between catcher and third base.

Filling slots in the outfield were Julia Amatto, Meghan O’Reilly, Clare Lynch, Gabby Sawczyn, Rebecca Twite and Clare Wagner.

Dan Hilson and Wayne Nicholson were other members of the coaching staff.

Irrgang, a graduate of Hopkins High, appreciated the opportunities she had in sports, and now she is giving back to the community through her coaching.

One of the highlights of her high school career was playing on Hopkins’ first-ever girls hockey team.