The Class C state amatuer town ball tournament kicks into gear this weekend, as 48 teams vie for their chance to be named state champion. The tournament begins Friday with the first round of games in Maple Lake and Delano.
By virtue of winning the Region 12C title, the Hutchinson Huskies have the weekend off. They will face the winner of Marble, second place from Region 10, and New Munich, which was third place in Region 15. Marble is making its first state appearance since 2003. They play at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Maple Lake.
One of the bigger names missing from the tournament is Delano, which was ranked as high as No. 4 in the state in July. The A’s were eliminated with back-to-back losses in the Region 12 tournament.
Last year’s state championship featured Plato defeating Sobieski, but a rematch is not in the cards this season. Sobieski moved up to Class B following the implementation of the new points system, while Plato was eliminated in its league playoffs. Kimball, a state semifinalist and 2017 state champion, also did not qualify for the tournament. That trio has combined to win four of the last five Class C state titles.
Young America is the lone returning semifinalist from last year, winning Region 7 and making its third straight state appearance. Returning quarterfinalists include Sartell (Region 11), New Market (Region 3) and Hutchinson (Region 12), which all won their region titles to earn first round byes this year. Buckman, a fellow quarterfinalist, finished third in Region 8 and will begin its state tournament Saturday.
Other region champions receiving byes include Mora, Red Wing, Morris, Fairmont, Bluffton, Jordan, Fergus Falls, Bemidji, Nisswa, Raymond, Farming and New Ulm. Bemidji was a state semifinalist in 2017, while Jordan and Fergus Falls have missed just one state tournament between them in the past eight seasons, with a combined three third-place finishes. Cold Spring is in its 30th state tournament in 31 years, which included Class B state titles as recently as 2013 and 2014, and a third-place finish in 2015.
Three other Region 12 teams will be in action this weekend. Runner-up Cokato plays Sleepy Eye at 11 a.m. Saturday in Delano. It is the first time since 1935 and the second time ever that Cokato will be in the state tournemnt. Howard Lake plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Maple Lake against New London-Spicer, and Maple Lake plays at home at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against Perham.
The Watkins Clippers are making their state debut at 11 a.m. Saturday when they play Stark in Delano. A win in that contest would set up another game at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, against Morris.
Sauk Centre is in the tourney for the first time since 2001, and Cologne is making its first appearance since 1972. Perham is back for the first time since 2006 and Morristown ended its state drought that dated back to 1989.
There are lots of story lines to follow this year, and upsets are always a guarantee — which teams are left standing in the final week is not.