Cougars’ aim to ‘raise the standard’ as they get set for first state appearance since 2012

The Mankato East and Mankato West softball teams battle in the section 2-3A semifinals on May 27, 2023 at Caswell Park.
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 6:49 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The state high school softball tournament is just days away from taking the fields at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

It’s been about a decade since the area has seen the Mankato East Cougars on the big stage, largely because their section-rivals Mankato West simply couldn’t be beat. This year is a different story.

“I’m one of the very few seniors on the team and we’ve never gotten past West these last couple years, so to finally do it this year it means a lot,” said Mankato East senior short stop Peyton Stevermer.

It’s the first time since 2012 the Cougars are champions of Section 2AAA. Early on in the season, there wasn’t a doubt that the black and gold were going to be a problem for every team they faced.

Mankato East finished the regular season with a near perfect 17-2 record. By the end of sections, the Cougars outscored their opponents 36-4, that includes wins over Mankato West and New Prague.

“We have a young team, so going into this, they might not think we’re up for the challenge, but even our young players are really great, we’re hitting strong 1-9, we’re playing great defense, we’re pitching strong,” said Cougars’ sophomore pitcher Kylinn Stangl. “We have a team that’ll jump out of no where and surprise you, because we’re so young and you never know what could happen.”

The Cougars earned the No. 1 seed in this year’s Class AAA tournament and will have a first-round date with Rocori at 11:15 on June 8th.

Big picture, the team is hoping its newfound success will raise the standard for years to come.

“I’m happy that we can get this experience for our younger levels of the team especially since we’ll be good the next couple of years so getting this experience underneath their belt will be really fun and really memorable for everyone,” added Stevermer.

As far as the game plan entering the tournament, there’s no question the Mankato East will look to its young ace in the circle, Stangl, to lead the way. Stangl’s 1.55 ERA and 127 strikeouts are amongst the best in the state.

“I really like to lock in at practice and work on spots where I think I’d be hitting those during games and throwing different counts and really working in the off time and really working before games,” explained Stangl.

As a group, the Cougars are hitting well — boasting a combined .334 batting average — highlighted by Stangl and seniors Peyton Stevermer and Sydney Jacobs.

Time will tell if Mankato East can put the finishing touches on an already impressive season.