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A familiar Ace returns to Dartts
Roy Koenig, Sports Writer
Roy Koenig, sports wrap, steele county times

The Owatonna Aces rotated through five pitchers in a seven-inning, 15-3 loss to Waseca on July 3 at Dartts Park. Traditionally they have taken off the week of July 4 and operated with a skeleton crew.

In fact, to fortify the ranks, Benji Hager came out of retirement for the game. He wore his No. 17, which also happens to be a retired number worn by his grandfather, and field namesake, Chuck Fuller.

“It’s got special meaning because it was his. And he always wore it because my grandmother’s birthday is Nov. 17. The family joke is always that he wore it so he didn’t forget her birthday,” said Hager with a laugh.

Hager enjoyed the chance to play, something he thought might never happen again when he hung up his cleats a few years ago. He recently got into better shape and said the stars sometimes align. The significance of the night hit him during the National Anthem.

He was disappointed in the final score but said that’s baseball. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains.”

The Braves jumped out to a 9-0 lead after two innings. The Aces put runners on base every inning but were held off the scoreboard until the fourth. Righthander Ryan Hanson, a six-foot-three force on the mound from Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton, scattered six singles while throwing a 117-pitch complete game. He added three hits, two RBIs, and scored three times.

Griffin Krautkremer pounded out three hits for Waseca. Chris Glynn homered over the right field fence, where Hager had a first-hand view.

A.J. Vandereide had two hits for Owatonna. Teagun Ahrens took the mound in the seventh inning and forced his RCTC teammate Peyton Garza to pop out to right. Jack Helget made a great sliding catch through a mud puddle in the left field corner, leaving his white pants in need of serious laundering.

The Aces have home games on Wednesday, July 10, against Dodge County and Friday, July 12, versus the Rochester Barons.


Casting for the title

Nearly 50 anglers make up the Owatonna High School fishing team. Their season runs from late May into summer. Teams of two compete to land the seven biggest fish.

Quinn Gare says his partner Tanner Milewski “provides a lot to the team by catching the big fish all the time and he’s just a good fisherman overall.”

The pair are both incoming sophomores in Medford and in their fourth year on the team and getting better each year. “Basically, our pre-fishing and the overall way that we practice. How we set up for our tournament date has progressed a lot since the beginning and our overall skill of bass fishing,” said Milewski.

Gare told the Owatonna Live Coaches Show that you need to be patient as an angler. “Fishing slow is a big factor on succeeding. Because if you fish slow the fish will more than likely eat your bait.”

The two have qualified for the Tournament of Champions (TOC), akin to a state tournament, said coach Zeke Schroeder. Several Owatonna teams have qualified for the TOC which will be held on the Whitefish Chain. The season includes events on Mille Lacs and the Mississippi River.

About 200 boats are typically on a lake for a competition. “At these events the fish are never in a live well. It’s really a good, concerted effort with both tournament trails we belong to, to really try and preserve fisheries,” said Schroeder.

Practices start each winter. “When there’s still ice on the lakes. We bring the kids into the gym. We bring out bean bag boards, and we have kids try to cast into those little holes. We teach them how to tie knots. From there, we talk about different kinds of lakes,” said Schroeder.

Owatonna’s team was formed in 2018.

The fishing league operates outside the realm of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) considering the summer season and events on Sundays. But Schroeder said, “We get enough support already from our Owatonna High School, which is great. We get to be part of the Homecoming parade.”


Hoop season

Collin Vick (OHS ’23) had a fantastic first year of college basketball as a point guard at Wisconsin-Stout. He told Owatonna Live Beyond the Game host Todd Walkingstick, “I set high expectations for myself. My goal was to be the starter because there were no returning players in my position.”

He started all 27 games averaging three assists, four rebounds, and three points per game. “I surprised myself a little bit. I won’t lie. But it was a ton of fun,” he said.

He had a double-double with 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a playoff win – the Blue Devils’ first in ten years.

It was also a year of learning the college game.

“Defense is tougher. The main thing I think is the bigs in high school basketball, you maybe have a six-foot-three, six-foot-four guy that’s in the paint. Where on our team we had a six-foot-11 guy and most other teams’ centers were around six-foot-eight or six-foot-nine. So, it’s a lot different going into the paint and trying to score.”

Vick also handled business with his academics.

“Luckily, I was able to bring in some credits from high school. So, I was able to take a little bit of a lighter schedule. Once we got to playoffs, it got a little bit tougher when exams were coming around, and there’d be some late nights staying up and studying,” he said.

Vick, who also played football and baseball at OHS, is pursuing sports psychology. Watch the full conversation at

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