Comets Overcome 4-run 1st Inning Deficit in Come From Behind Gem

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Comets Overcome 4-run 1st Inning Deficit in Come From Behind Gem

If the Comets could erase an inning from their season, yesterdays 1st inning may have been a good one. After falling behind 4-0 in the 1st, Reggie Undseth showed his mettle in taking the mound and going the distance after spotting nearly a handful of runs to West Central Area. The Knights fell prey to yet another display of Comet baseball's resiliency.

After two scoreless innings, the Comet bats came alive and capitalized on a few mistakes by the Knights. In the top of the 3rd, Trey Bosek reached first base on an error. When Collin Erickson showed why he is one of Coach Undseth's top hitters reached first base on grounder, Bosek trucked from first to third and landed 90 feet from scoring. Erickson took off for second during the next at bat, creating a diversion with the double-steal play that brough Bosek home.

I am so proud of the way our guys fought back after going down 4-0 in the first inning. Reggie settled himself and pitched a terrific game the rest of the way, giving us the opportunity to chip away at the deficit. We finally got some clutch hits when we needed them from Collin, Sean, Nick, and Jordan. After the two extra-inning games earlier in the week when we scored a total of 4 runs in 19 innings, it was very satisfying to go home with a win tonight.
— Head Coach Steve Undseth

Sean McGuire stepped into the box and tipped his hat, seeing Erickson at second with a run on the board for the Comets. McGuire ripped a single that caught a lot of green, allowing Bosek to round third easily and put the Comets down 2 runs, 4-2.

The Knights fought back in the following innings, giving Hillcrest a 5-2 deficit before Hillcrest caught some momentum in the 5th around Bosek for a second time. After walking, Bosek eyed second base. Another single by Erickson gave Bosek free pass to third base. 90 feet from home for the second time in the day, Bosek sprinted home on an RBI sacrifice by Nick Foss. 

When McGuire stepped in it was like things hadn't changed since his previous at bat. Erickson was at second and Bosek was high fiving in the dugout. Another RBI single let Erickson sit for a few minutes, scoring easily before grabbing his glove and standing at the fence of the dugout. The Comets were down 5-4 with McGuire on first.

McGuire moved to second after Undseth was hit by a pitch. With Foss stepping to the plate McGuire took a large lead at second. The infield was playing straight up, and Foss noticed a simple hole over first base. A tip over the first baseman's head sent McGuire from his large lead to score the tying run.

The stage was set for another round of late game heroics for the Comets. After a few at bats Hillcrest stood with a tying score and the bases loaded. Jake Steinle cooly walked to the plate. He'd been in a game winning situation earlier in the year. But what came through during Steinle's at bat wasn't the prowess of a hitter but the patience of a ball player. Steinle played the game, taking a series of pitches that might have led to a cheering stomp from the dugout. But he was disciplined. He didn't reach for a pitch with his aluminum bat. Instead, he sat and watched and walked to first base as the winning run crossed home plate.

The Comets play their final home game Monday vs. Barnesville. Hillcrest is 8-6 on the season.

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Comets Eye State in Undefeated Relay Team

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Comets Eye State in Undefeated Relay Team

4 Comets win every time they step on the track. Hans Frank-Holzner, Luke Bowman, Toby Simonsen, and Tommy Thompson set the pace for the 4X800m relay every time they're entered. Their time of 8:46 was good enough to earn them first place as they set their sights on the final stretch of the season in hopes of qualifying for state.

The 4X800m team isn't the only time Hillcrest jersey's step on the podium. In Thursdays meet, Hans Frank-Holzner took a second trip to the first place stand to receive a medal for the 1 mile run with a time of 4:50. Tommy Thompson filled Holzner's place on the podium for the 800m run with a time of 2:11.

One step down from Holzner stand a host of Comets who took off their cleats to represent their school. Abby Christenson won second place honors for the 400m and 800m runs with times of 1:07 and 2:42 respectively. Luke Bowman placed second in the 800m with a time of 2:14, 3 seconds behind teammate and pace setter Tommy Thompson. 

Tommy and Luke joined together, along with 4X800m teammate Toby Simonsen, and Junior High student Thomas Zwiers, to place second in the 4X400m relay with a time of 3:57.

The Comets' trip to the podium were interspersed with cheering from their team's camp. The cheering was a celebration of personal records (PR) other Comets attained due to their hard work during the season. Matilde Strand set a PR for the discus after she threw a 50'1" mark. Zak Zwiers followed Strand in setting a PR, throwing 96'1" in besting his previous throws throughout the year. Zak's brother, Thomas, set a PR with a 29.34 sprint of the 200m. Melanie Antuna closed the meet with her PR, a 2 mile run that had her smile dazzling with a time of 13:53.

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Comets Keep it Close with State Ranked Sebeka

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Comets Keep it Close with State Ranked Sebeka

Likely the most challenging game of the year pushed Hillcrest into new territory Thursday night. After Junior Sophie Iverson put one over the fence a new sense of confidence filled the Comet dugout as they played #9 ranked Sebeka, losing a slugfest in 7 innings with a final score of 13-10.

When Iverson stepped in for her first at bat there she carried a new approach to the plate. Sebeka's pitcher throws hard, and is known to paint the corners of the plate to keep hitters off balance. But when Iverson turned on a ball that lingered above the belt-buckle she proved that intimidation isn't something the Comets fall prey to. Iverson blasted a home run over the left-center fence, the longest part of Hannah Park. Her high fives and smiles plastered a 2-0 lead that gave the Comets a sense of confidence as they took the field in the second inning.

Sebeka gained a 3-2 advantage in the 2nd off a home run. The Comets countered with some good hitting and quick work on the base path. In the bottom of the fourth they jumped back on the board after Annie Murphy placed a hard hit ball up the middle. Murphy moved to second easily with a stolen base, and crossed home plate after Iverson cranked another hard hit ball. Iverson moved to third off a stolen base. Head Coach Craig Nersten eyed home plate from the third base coaches box. His tying run was 90 feet from home. 

Sebeka failed to get a decent pitch into Dekok, who was eager to plate Iverson by hitting the ball into the green outfield. But Dekok proved patient, watching 4 pitches sail by earning a free trip to first base. Nersten stuck his finger in the air as Dekok trotted down the line, catching Assistant Coach Pete Aasness' eye who sent Dekok to second base. With one out, the Comets were pulling a double steal off a walk. Nersten wanted that run.

Dekok got caught in a hot-box play, and as Sebeka paused the run down they watched Hillcrest even the score in the 3rd with both teams scoring 4 runs. Dekok nearly landed at second, but a close call by the umpire sent Dekok to the dugout. 

Sebeka bounced back from Hillcrest's small ball play, scoring 2 runs in the 4th and one in the 5th. Hillcrest came back in the 5th with back-to-back doubles by Dekok and Emma Royce. But Sebeka proved why they are #9 in the state with a sailing home run in the 6th that extended their lead to 13-6. Hillcrest ran out of steam, scoring 3 more runs in the 7th, but failed to close the remaining 2 run gap.

Hillcrest is looking forward to playoffs, with seedings cast today and games played Monday. Senior Megan Aasness is hoping she can continue playing softball well into June. her 48 stolen bases is a single season record, bolstering her total by 4 Thursday afternoon. She'll looking to break 50 today, when Hillcrest plays Barnesville to close the regular season.

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Holzner Sets Pace for Comets Eyeing State

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Holzner Sets Pace for Comets Eyeing State

Hans Holzner is making quick work of his track season. After finishing 32nd in the state for cross-country, Hans is taking to the track with aggression and is leading his team in a charge to state.

Holzner set a personal record Monday, running his mile in 4:45. For Hans, it was an easy day in Battle Lake. Normally he pairs with his undefeated 4X800m team to set a team tone at meets. However, with one member of the team missing, Holzner focused to her personal events and brought home gold. His mile time was good enough to make a statement for him on the first place podium. His 800m time of 2:04:24 also gave him gold as he cheered on teammates.

Holzner's remaining 4X800m team kept pace with him throughout the meet. Luke Bowman was drafting Hans for much of the day, finishing the 800m 13 seconds behind his state bound teammate. Bowman's mile time was 5:07, earning him 4th place as he clapped for his teammate wearing the gold medal.

Joining Holzner on the podium for mile was Toby Simonsen. Simonsen's 4:56 mile time was hard fought, beating Bowman to the podium, but falling prey to friendly competition in the 800m. Simonsen finished 6th to Bowman's 5th place, crossing the line one second behind Bowman and catching him after the finish to slap his hand in congratulations.

For the Lady Comets Melanie Antuna took to the podium, earning second place in the 2 mile with a 14:24 time. Antuna placed 8th in the less grueling 1 mile, crossing the line with a 6:43 time. 

The Battle Lake meet sets the stage for the Comets who are now looking forward to their sub-section and section meets, working to earn a spot in the State track meet in June.

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Comets Fight Back in Big Win and Cause Conference Showdown

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Comets Fight Back in Big Win and Cause Conference Showdown

Comet Baseball has moved steadily up the standings over the past few weeks. As the weather turned brutally cold Hillcrest started heating up, with good pitching and timely hitting earning the team a 2 game win streak. They came back from a 2-0 deficit vs. Brandon-Evansville for a decisive win Friday that has the Comets rolling towards their conference showdown vs. Ortonville on Monday.

The Comets fell down early in the top of the first inning Friday. A pair of run scoring hits had Brandon-Evansville on top of the Comets with Trey Bosek on the mound. When Bosek entered the dugout his team rallied, scoring a pair of runs that quickly reset the game for the second inning.

Jordan Foss was the first Comet on base in the first inning. His keen eye for good pitches earned him a walk, where he stole second, and scored on the first of Reggie Undseth's 3 hits of the game. Undseth advanced to second after the Chargers muffed a pick-off attempt, and scored from second base after getting a great jump on a ground ball by Chris Tungseth. 

Bosek struggled in the top of the third as the weather turned from bad to worse. The biting wind made it hard to grip the ball with any confidence from the mound. However, good defensive play kept Brandon-Evansville from posting a handful of runs, and as they took the field following the third out Hillcrest was only down one run. 

The dugout grew more lively during the third. Undseth earned a trip to first base again, sneaking to the bag on a nice single. He owned the base path for the second time, stealing second and third base with ease. 

With Undseth drawing attention from home plate, the Chargers struggled to throw strikes. Undseth represented the neutralizing run and he was 90 feet from resetting the game for the second time. Sean McGuire capitalized off the distraction, watching four balls sail outside the strike zone, granting him passage to first base.

With Undseth capped at first, McGuire took off for second, hoping to start a double steal. But the Chargers granted McGuire the free base, looking to retain their lead. For the second time on the day Chris Tungseth stepped in and tapped a dinger, looking to earn an RBI but Undseth was called out at home on a tag. Sam Ihrke stepped in, knocking a sacrifice hit to first base that scored McGuire and pulled Tungseth to third, who scored on the next at bat. The Comets ended the inning up 5-3.

The Chargers rallied for 3 runs in the sixth, after Hillcrest went up 6-3 in fifth. The 6-6 tie didn't sit well with the Comets, who struggled after a few costly mistakes in the field. After picking up two outs, Hillcrest sent Tungseth to the plate in the bottom of the 7th. A tapper in the infield grass promised to end the inning, but Tungseth turned his motor on and beat the throw, extending the inning. 

Bosek tapped another grounder, that should've sent the Comets back into the field, but a throwing error gave new life to the Comet bench that now had runners on second and third with 2 outs. Sam Ihrke unbuckled his catching gear and quickly picked up his bat before stepping into the box. The Comets have made him do that a lot this year as they continually extend innings and win games off two out hits. With Ihrke peering under his batting helmet visor he watched a pitch sail away from the Charger pitcher into a sweet spot in the strike zone. Ihrke connected for a base hit to left-center that scored Tungseth and set-off another walk-off win for the Comets at home.

Bosek pitched well considering the conditions. He went the distance for the Comets, giving up a meager 5 hits and walking none. It was Bosek's pitching, and a sturdy defense behind him, that proved the difference as the Comets capitalized on Charger mistakes and proved to be tough outs again for opponents. 

Hillcrest is 7-3 in the Pheasant Conference, taking on Ortonville who is 8-2 and is coming off a shutout loss to Brandon-Evansville last Thursday. The winner has a chance to run the table of the conference, and Hillcrest is looking forward to playing at home where they've lost 2 games all year.

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Comet Softball Earns Conference With Mettle Win

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Comet Softball Earns Conference With Mettle Win

Considering a handful of players aren't from Minnesota, the Lady Comets are taking the turn in weather and forcing native Minnesotans off the field.

The past three games ended early for the Comets after they outscored opponents by over 10 runs after five frames. The past two games were played in sub-60 degree weather, where the crack of the bat shatters wrists as it breaks the silence on the field. But the Lady Comets have made Minnesotan teams not want to play. Their 8-2 record is good enough for a share of the conference title so far, and with two non-conference teams left on their schedule the girls are guaranteed a share of the trophy with Brandon-Evansville, unless the Chargers lose one of their final two contests and hand the trophy solely to the Comets.

Friday's game blew frigid air across the infield, causing tears to flow from Nicole DeKok who stood on the mound and dominated in spite of the blistering wind. DeKok was in rare form, taking her aggression for the weather out on the strike zone. She struck out 11 in Graceville, giving up a meager 2 hits in her 5 inning shutout. 

DeKok walked to the dugout two times before the Comets blew the game open in the third. Watching their pitcher classically laying down Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, the Comets sent 14 batters to the plate in the third inning. After batting through the order, the Lady Comets grabbed their gloves having posted 9 runs to the scoreboard. They only needed to bat 5 times before boarding the bus in their 5 inning outing.

DeKok didn't want to leave the field. Hitting seems more fun in the cold for her. After going 2 for 4 in the afternoon, she drove home 3 teammates and stole 2 bases. When Nicole wasn't cranking the ball to the grass and sending Clinton players to their bench with drooping shoulders she was watching Emma Royce take the leather off the ball. Royce went 3 for 4 and added 2 RBIs and 2 stolen bases. 

The Comets were heating-up the base path throughout the afternoon. State record steals holder Megan Aasness added 3 to her tally, giving her 40 steals on the year. She is 1 shy of tying her state record of 41. Aasness went 2 for 4 batting, scoring twice. Behind Aasness, Sophie Iverson gritted her teeth in working to send Aasness around the base path. Iverson went 2 for 3, scoring 3 times. 

The Lady Comets play two non-conference games to close their season. Tuesday they travel to Barrett, MN to play West Central Area, and Friday, May 20 they play in Barnesville. The girls will watch the wire to see if rival Brandon-Evansville falls in their Monday afternoon game against Wheaton/Herman-Norcross, or Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, mimicking the Comet's schedule next week.

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Track Team Proves Athletics is a Practice in Character in Noteworthy Meet

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Track Team Proves Athletics is a Practice in Character in Noteworthy Meet

The HLA Track and Field Team displayed more than athletic ability at yesterday’s meet in Breckenridge. Thirteen athletes (three girls and ten boys) brought home 16 top six finishes on this cold and blustery day. But most noteworthy were the attitudes this small, young team exhibited before, during, and after competing.

The 4x800 relay team (comprised of 4 juniors: Hans Holzner, Luke Bowman, Toby Simonson, and Tommy Thompson) remains undefeated for the season as they flew past all contenders. Two boys tried three new events and ribboned in all three. The whole team celebrated every victory as they cheered wildly from the sidelines. Some athletes pushed themselves and achieved personal records. One athlete was forced to abandon her event and the athletic trainer had to be called onto the field. Her teammates gathered around to offer support, water, and warm blankets. In this sport, though everyone competes against their own record, students win as a team and lose as a team with equal grace. Words of encouragement were shouted from teammates. High fives, hugs, and fist bumps abounded--regardless of the outcome of the event.

Commemorative Champion t-shirts were awarded to the winners of each event. One runner received three such shirts for his three wins. On the bus ride home, he handed one of his shirts to a Jr High student who had run two personal best times without winning a ribbon. He praised her for her effort and felt she deserved a shirt. Another of his shirts, along with words of affirmation, went to the runner who had to drop out of her event. If awards had been given for character, generosity, and teamwork, HLA students could have filled a trophy case.

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Comet Softball On Path to Conference After 10-Run Rule Win

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Comet Softball On Path to Conference After 10-Run Rule Win

The Lady Comets are on their way to take over the conference after a decisive win against Brandon-Evansville Thursday at Hannah Park. With most Comets wearing warm up jackets, it was awful weather to knock the ball around the park. The Lady Comets made quick work of Brandon-Evansville, getting in and out of the park early after their 10-0 win that ended the game after three outs in the sixth.

Nicole DeKok didn't have her best stuff, but it didn't seem to matter. Working to get her curve ball dialed in in the first and second inning was difficult in the cold weather. But Nicole set to using her change-up and it proved enough to keep Brandon Evansville off balance with only 3 hits in six innings of play.

The Comets struck early, thanks again to State record holder Megan Aasness. With the career steals record under her arm, Aasness is working to break the single season record for steals, eyeing to get 4 more in the final three games. She grabbed 3 Thursday to put her at 37, knowing she needs to break 41 to tie the record. 

Aasness grabbed her first steal after a solid hit up the middle. She took second on the next play, stealing home after advancing on a Comet sacrifice. The score in the first gave DeKok confidence to work the strike zone, with the Comets up 1-0.

After a scoreless second, the Comets set down Brandon-Evansville in order and started the bottom of the third with something to prove. Aasness was one of the beneficiaries of the Comets' work on the base path, bringing in the 3rd run for the Comets in the second. She had 2 hits on the day, scoring 3 times after drawing a walk in the fifth.

In the third inning Emma Royce stepped in, having watched teammate Megan Aasness cross the plate with ease. With runners at the corners, and the Comets up 3-0, Royce swung with abandonment, missing the first pitch with a whiff that was felt in the outfield. But in the next pitch Emma was dialed in and shifted her weight in precision with the bat to cast a line drive in the right field gap. It cleared the bases, giving Hillcrest a 5-0 lead, as she took the final steps of her triple with a smile on her face. Royce went 2-3 on the day.

The Comets continued to shutdown Brandon-Evansville. DeKok and Comet catcher Ruthanne Erickson were in sync for most of the day. When Erickson wasn't drawing in DeKok's fastball and setting up outside the plate for hairsplitting off-speed pitches that painted the corners, she was stepping into the batters box to help out her pitcher. Her hit in the sixth drove in a pair of runners, and her work on the base path left her stat line with 2 stolen bases.

The Comets play Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley on Friday. The Comets essentially hold the conference in their hands, promised a tie at a minimum if they win their final 3 games.

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Comets Overcome Hurdles in Nail Biter Win

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Comets Overcome Hurdles in Nail Biter Win

Hillcrest baseball is quickly becoming known as the team that never dies. The past two games had the Comets walking to the dugout with a 3-2 win despite nip-and-tuck innings where scoring happened with two outs. Tuesday had other heroics to add to the mix.

The Comets are creating a sizable foe from the mound in their three-headed monster that only looks to replicate in the future. Sean McGuire and Chris Tungseth are common names on the filling the pitching postion on the Comet scorecard. With addition of Sophomore Trey Bosek, to go with fellow hurler Reggie Undseth, the Comets have a battalion of gunners that will be necessary as they wrap up their season with 6 games in the final 2 weeks of the season. Tungseth calmed some fears for Head Coach Steve Undseth Tuesday night, casting a bright outlook for the Comets to emerge as the conference's top team.

Senior Chris Tungseth threw to a win, the second for him on the season. His 10 strike-outs and no walks kept the Comets a nose in front of the Owls after a strong third inning scoring streak for Hillcrest. "10 K's and zero walks is a recipe for success almost any time, but it was barely enough tonight," noted Steve Undseth following the game.

The Comets leapt ahead in the 3rd inning after a quick 1-2 out scenario. When Trey Bosek stepped into the plate and tapped a dinger down the third base line it looked like Tungseth would need to tighten his belt at the mound to keep Hillcrest in the game. However, Hancock bumbled the play, one of four errors that ended-up costing the Owls the game. 

Dust rose from Bosek's batting glove, slapping hands with Eric Konynenbelt to signify a change of positions. Konynenbelt's pinch running has been key for the Comets in a number of games. The exchange at first base gave Sam Ihrke time to un-clip his catching gear and step into the batters box. With the hit-and-run on, Ihrke and Konynenbelt kept the inning alive.

Konynenbelt stole third base after Jake Steinle stepped-up, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet from home plate, with Ihrke advancing to second thanks to heads-up base running. Steinle lofted a pop-up to the grass, and with two outs both Konynenbelt and Ihrke had their running shoes on, with Ihrke rounding third base as the Owls dropped the easy out and extended the inning. Hillcrest went up 2-0. 

Steinle wasn't done with his late inning heroics. Feeding off the energy from his walk-off single winner the previous week, he stole second base without flinching. When Sean McGuire lined a single to the outfield, Steinle hustled around third and put the Comets up 3-0. It was the only inning the Comets could generate any momentum in. 

Hancock put together a two-out score of their own the next inning, capitalizing off a few Comet errors. The Owls added another unearned run in the 6th on a dropped-ball strikeout. "We were fortunate that our 5 errors did not cost us more than 2 unearned runs," Coach Undseth noted in recapping the game.

The Comets appear to be in the drivers seat as they look down the road to the Pheasant Conference trophy. They play Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley (CGB) at 5pm on Thursday in CGB, and again on Friday at Legion Field in Fergus Falls to make-up for a rain out earlier in the season.

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Comets All Smiles After Walk-off Win

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Comets All Smiles After Walk-off Win

No one could wipe the smile off Jake Steinle's face. His late game heroics incited a mob of Comets to jump on his back, forcing deep stains on his jersey that will are likely to dust off easier than the momentum the Comets feel after their 3-2 win over Wheaton Thursday night.

Hillcrest was coming off a tough game against Pelican Rapids, where an early deficit kept the Comets underwater despite great late-game pitching and some good hitting. As the Comets brushed the dust of that loss off their bags Thursday, a new feeling was forging in the dugout.

In taking the field Hillcrest looked for a 1-2-3 inning to right their course. With Junior ace Sean McGuire on the mound, the Comets looked to make quick work of the first few innings on defense. So when Wheaton put a run on the board after an error at first base, allowing a runner to round the bases through a steal and two singles, fans braced for a repeat of Tuesday where the Comets fell to Pelican Rapids. But the Comet bats were there to right their mistake and bolster their ace's confidence. 

Senior Jordan Foss was the first to score for Hillcrest, cracking a double in the bottom of the second to get his teammates to hang their arms on the dugout fence. After shaking dust from the bottom of his pant legs, Jordan took a sizable lead at second base. He's quick, and confident, on the base path.

Foss' lead looked cocky to Wheaton, who pulled a dangerous pick-off attempt that allowed Jordan to stroll into third base where he was 90 feet from tying the score. Up-and-coming lefty Sam Ihrke stepped back into the box after watching Jordan take three steps from third base. Sam looked Jordan in the eyes before taking his signs from Head Coach Steve Undseth. With a simple base hit that reached the grass, Ihrke rounded first base to the right, high-fiving Assistant Coach Erick Benjamin Sede as Foss joined his teammates at the dugout fence and McGuire slapped his hands and grabbed his glove. Confidence permeated from the dugout. 

When McGuire took the mound in the top of the third it was basically a new ball game. The score was tied. The costly error in the first inning was behind them. Hillcrest was back on track.

When McGuire traded his glove for his bat in the third inning he looked to help his cause. With an effortless swing McGuire found the sweet spot on the bat and placed a high flying ball to the Warrior outfield. With Wheaton chasing the ball McGuire rounded the bases at full speed. When the dust settled the Comets had another player 90 feet from home with another underclassmen stepping into the box. 

Nick Foss looked over his shoulder to Undseth to get the signs. With McGuire in the foreground, Foss tipped his cap and stepped into the box. Nick is a small ball expert, so Undseth's call was easy. Nick waited for the perfect pitch and tapped a perfect bunt down the first base line. McGuire darted home with the crack of the bat and Foss smiled as the Warriors only play was the out at first base. The Comets tagged a 2-1 lead to the box score with McGuire's sprint home.

McGuire settled in and set down the Warriors from the mound for the next few frames. When he left the mound for the day, Sean allowed a meager 5 hits and 2 unearned runs. He sent 7 Warriors to their dugout shaking their heads. The 7 strikeouts showed McGuire to be too much for the Warrior bats.

The Warriors tied the game in 5th on a passed ball after leading off the inning with a triple. The score looked to demoralize the Comets a little, after McGuire struck out two batters following the triple before the passed ball allowed Wheaton to tie the game. There were a number of situations like this for McGuire on the night. He pitched out of tight spots, leaving Wheaton with 8 scoring opportunities. "Sean had to dig deep and make some huge pitches with runners in scoring position in nearly every inning," noted Coach Undseth following the game.

With the score tied in the bottom of the 7th inning, Hillcrest looked to capitalize on a lead off walk by Jordan Foss. Foss took another sizable lead at first, earning him second base. When Reggie Undseth looked to third base for his sign from his dad it was a simple call most knew he would get. Undseth was called to sacrifice to move Foss to third. But an errant throw by Wheaton hit Undseth, putting Comets at first and second with no outs.

The Comets looked to execute a sacrifice fly on the next at bat, but it popped out to first for the first out. With a double-play threatening the inning, Jake Steinle stepped into the box. Looking to do anything but hit into an inning ending double-play, Steinle gripped his bat and found a pitch he like. The crack of the bat caused some fans to close their eyes. When the ball was finally spotted it was a simple dot on the grass in the outfield. Steinle placed a blooper to center field and barely made it to first base before his teammates rushed him in celebration. 

The win puts the Comets in strong place to win the conference, moving them to 5-2 against regional opponents. They have a decisive game against Brandon-Evansville on Monday, May 9 at Legion Field at 5pm.

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Comets String Together Standout Plays Moving to 4-2 Record

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Comets String Together Standout Plays Moving to 4-2 Record

"We made the plays when we had to," commented Comet Head Coach Steve Undseth. As players rustled dust out of their pants it was hard not to smile. The Comets moved to 4-2 on the season, doing it as a team with special development from specific players that is proving to be the difference for the Comets.

"Jake, Jordan, Sean, Collin, and Chris each made a standout defensive play," Undseth continued, praising his team for their hard work Monday. The Comets are building momentum as they enter the mid point of the season. Their defense Monday night was good enough to pull out a win, but Undseth sees room for improvement. "Except for the dropped pop-up we played pretty well in the field."

Undseth is drawing a lot from his team. Sophomore Samuel Ihrke is one player who is quickly growing to be a quiet cornerstone for the team. Watching Sam crouch behind the plate is exciting as he works with strike out pitchers like Sean McGuire and popping-up to back-up field play from hurlers Chris Tungseth and Reggie Undseth, who are developing into strong contact pitchers for the Comets. Ihrke is also developing into a well rounded hitter. His single in the 3rd inning opened scoring for the Comets, where Eric Konynenbelt pinch ran his way around the diamond and stole home on a walk by Jordan Foss. Ihrke went 2 for 2 on the night, adding a walk to his stat line that is starting to resemble a smart and consistent hitter.

Next to Ihrke stand a host of underclassmen. Collin Erickson, Austin Pereleberg-Hunt, and Trey Bosek are a trio in the Comet lineup that is finding big innings coming through their bats. Erickson has already earned accolades with the bat, notably a game-winning double last week. Bosek put together an important at bat that scored Junior Sean McGuire when the Comets blew up the bats in the 3rd inning. 

The Comets are seeing great production from Junior role players as they enter the mid-point of the season. Jake Steinle came up big in the 4th inning for the Comets, wrapping a single to the grass, taking second on a wild pitch, and scoring when Ihrke placed a single past second base. Junior Sean McGuire sent home 2 RBI's on the night.

With the team gelling thanks to support from role players in the Comet lineup, the mound stands a little taller for Hillcrest. Chris Tungseth was able to go the distance Monday, pitching all six innings in an important game. Tungseth's kicking dirt to complete the frames on Monday night allows the Comets to rest McGuire and Reggie Undseth, who will be called on to meet Pelican Rapids Tuesday and Wheaton/Herman-Norcross Thursday, both games are at the Legion Field in Fergus Falls. If the Comets enter the weekend with a 6-2 record they will hold a top place in the conference as they start the back end of the season. 

The Comets put together a strong 3rd inning Monday, scoring 4 runs on a series of base hits. Steinle's hustle on the bases proved the difference for the Comets in the 4th. Their 5-4 win was big for their hopes of earning a top seed for playoffs. Notably, Hillcrest needs to string together a series of big wins this week in order to have the position that will place them on a road to Target Field for the State Championship. If the team can continue to develop in unison, completing some standout plays in succession, they will close May with their eyes set on more baseball in June. 

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Lady Comets Pour on Runs in Tune-up For Busy Week

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Lady Comets Pour on Runs in Tune-up For Busy Week

The Lady Comets have a tendency to make the base path seem small. Quick feet and heads-up plays turn routine base hits into doubles and lead to runs for the Lady Comets. Their attention on the bases scored 8 runs in overwhelming Ashby Friday, improving their record to 4-1 on the season. 

Junior hurler Nicole DeKok is quickly making a name for herself within the circle. Lights-out pitching is providing the Comets incredible opportunities to post big numbers on offense. DeKok struck out 8 in earning her 4th victory Friday. She put together two hits on the night, helping her cause from home plate. 

Megan Aasness and Annie Murphy joined DeKok in posting two hits on the day. Murphy cranked out 2 doubles for hers. The tandem batters circled the bases twice, putting in 4 of the Comets 8 runs with their quick feet. Junior Sophie Iverson also joined Murphy and Aasness in high fives behind the plate with two runs of her own. 

Behind Dekok the Comets pulled out a blanket defense. No errors were made off hit balls, showing a steady improvement for the Lady Comets in their fielding. 

The Lady Comets are looking forward to a busy week, with 4 games over 5 days. Tuesday and Thursday are tune-ups versus Ortonville and Ashby. The girls have their eyes set to Wheaton/Herman-Norcross on Friday, where their double header could well decide their road in the first few games in playoffs.

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Comets Put Together 6 Run 6th in Pitching Clinic Shutout

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Comets Put Together 6 Run 6th in Pitching Clinic Shutout

"Sean was masterful on the mound, mixing his fastball and off-speed pitches with great precision.  It is such a pleasure to watch him pitch," commented Comet Coach Steve Undseth as his team swatted gloves and lined-up to shake hands with the Ashby Arrows in a 6-0 Comet win Friday night.

Sean McGuire might well have worn a lab coat and safety goggles to the ball park Friday night. His precision pitching dissected the Ashby Arrows and left them exposed. Through six frames McGuire sat 13 batters down on strikes, allowing only one hit during his time on the mound. McGuire's lights-out performance gave the Comets time to warm up their bats, where the only scoring for the night came after six innings of pitching and defense.

Reggie Undseth fed off McGuire's dominant performance with a leadoff hit in the 6th inning. He stole second base, opening first for Jordan Foss, who watched four pitches sail outside the strike zone. With Foss' walk, McGuire stepped in and placed a masterful hit to right field, scoring Undseth, moving Foss to third. The simple hit was all the scoring McGuire would need in helping his cause for the win. But the rest of Comets wanted a piece of the action.

McGuire stole second during the next at bat. A wild pitch sent Foss home and McGuire to third. With McGuire threatening to steal home, a common trait of the Comets in their small ball, take-what-you-can-get base running, Chris Tungseth stepped in and peered down the right field line. With the crack of the bat Tungseth sent a pop fly to the outfield, allowing McGuire to tag-up and go home. Tungseth's sacrifice fly put the Comets up 3-0 with 1 out.

With the bases empty, Coach Undseth sought to fill them up for another Comet run of scoring. Sending his consistent underclassman batters, Trey Bosek and Collin Erickson, to the plate, Undseth saw two Comets on the base path before Ashby went to their bullpen. After the warm-up pitches Undseth watched Jake Steinle nail a 2-run single to the outfield and saw Ashby scramble to control their relays. Steinle's hustle on the bases brought him to third base where he watched a passed ball give him an in-the-park home run. Steinle's hustle gave Hillcrest a 6-0 lead and closed scoring for the night.

With the win Hillcrest is showing themselves to be a never-say-die team. Their win propels them to a 3-2 record. Ashby is looking forward to a rematch on Monday at 4:30pm in Ashby.

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Comets Score 6 Runs in 2-Out Clutch Hitting for 7-4 Victory

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Comets Score 6 Runs in 2-Out Clutch Hitting for 7-4 Victory

After Mondays pitching duel loss to up and coming Ortonville, the Comets boarded the bus Thursday having sharpened some of the skills they used to keep Mondays game close. Their practice sessions paid off in a big way as Wheaton struggled to catch up to a Comet team that is making a statement.

Having used hurler Sean McGuire to quell Ortonville's loud bats on Monday, Hillcrest sent Reggie Undseth to kick the rubber. Undseth peered through the batters box for five innings on the day, giving Hillcrest a chance to level their record when he marched to the dugout with a 4-2 lead.

The game started in a familiar way for the Comets. McGuire is known to make use of the base path, and his single to start the game was routine. Shouts from the Comet dugout wafted around McGuire who dusted-off his jersey with a steal of second during the next at bat. With first base open, Chris Tungseth gripped the bat a little tighter. McGuire is usually in scoring position for Tungseth. It's a sweet one-two punch for the Comets. 

Tungseth singled and sent McGuire home to start the scoring. After Wheaton leveled the score on a fielder choice, they loaded the bases. Undseth calmly threw strikes and trusted his defense, walking to the dugout with a 1-1 tie while Wheaton scratched their heads and took to the field empty handed after their full-deck on the bases.

Undseth cooly worked Wheaton's lineup. At the end of the day he allowed 3 hits in 5 innings. The Comets rewarded his work with a three run 5th where Sam Ihrke boarded first base with one out for the Comets. Eric Konynenbelt tagged Sam Ihrke and took first base as a pinch runner. Konynenbelt stole second and moved to third on a throwing error. Head Coach Steve Undseth knows how to use his personnel.

Reggie Undseth singled for the Comets, driving in Konynenbelt to give the Comets a 2-1 lead before Tungseth doubled to make it a 4-1 score. Wheaton scored a run on Undseth in the 5th on a fielder's choice grounder, closing Hillcrest's lead to 4-2.

In the 6th inning Jake Steinle reached first, moved to second after Nick Foss executed a sacrifice bunt, and moved home after Sam Ihrke singled into the outfield grass. The run was pivotal for the Comets who faced an angry Wheaton lineup that nailed two doubles off Tungseth, closing Hillcrest's lead to 5-4.

Hillcrest took to the bats in the 7th knowing they needed to capitalize on the momentum they built in the previous two frames. When Tungseth reached on an error there was a new electricity in the dugout. Trey Bosek signled to move Tungseth to second before Colin Erickson took to the plate. With the back part of the lineup starting, Wheaton sat back with an expectation of leaving the inning down one run. Stepping into the box, kicking a slice of dirt over the back of the plate, Erickson peered in looking to push fellow underclassmen Bosek and Senior Captain Tungseth across the plate. With the crack of his bat Erickson darted to first. The high flying ball caught Wheaton off-balance. As Wheaton tracked the ball back it kept soaring. The ball reached the fence with thud and Erickson was half-way to second. Tungseth was holding his glove, readying his final inning of pitching and Bosek was high-fiving the dugout as the Comets stood with a 7-4 lead. 

Tungseth held the frame scoreless and Hillcrest boarded the bus with a 7-4 win, scoring 6 runs with two-outs on the day. "I was so pleased with our two-out hitting today," noted Coach Undseth after the game. "Colin's hit was huge as it restored our 3-run lead. Reggie pitched very well in his first start of the year." Undseth noted that the two-out hitting was contagious for his lineup as the game grew closer. The important win now sends Hillcrest to Ashby with a 2-2 record as they host Ashby Friday at 4:30pm.

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Prayer Day Unites Nations Through Time-tested Practice

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Prayer Day Unites Nations Through Time-tested Practice

“Write down the first five names that come to your mind,” Principal Isaac said, opening Prayer Day at Hillcrest Academy last month. A shuffling of papers and pens washed over the silence in the old gym. With every student bouncing names of friends and acquaintances through their mind a unique start to prayer day set the stage for the school. Today was about building community through prayer.

Students fixed their eyes on Principal Isaac for the first session. A teaching on prayer preceded a presentation of the Gospel. The focus on Jesus helped students understand the work of the cross. The stage was set for communication with God because of Jesus' work. With the Gospel in the fore of students' minds, the lights dimmed and a group of Norwegian students made their way to the stage. 

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A room filled with fifteen circles of chairs, the old gym was encompassed with groups of people who were randomly placed together in chair pods. Students and staff spent the day focused outwardly rather than inwardly. It didn't phase the body of Hillcrest students that they weren't sitting next to best friends. Their comfort in praying outloud wasn't a problem. The practice of bowing heads in unison was uniting.

Along with open prayer time, Hillcrest’s staff arranged to have twenty-minute slots set aside for particular prayers and scripture to meditate on.  With each time slot came a new theme. A couple hundred people, thanking God for his blessings for twenty-minutes, followed with worship. Every student and leader was singing, some lifting hands high, united in one loud voice declaring the love of God. The room radiated from the worship of Jesus Christ.

After lunch a new sense of community wafted into the gym as students gathered to continue their day of outward focus. Knowing there were Christian and non-Christian students gathered, their presence showed a bond that only Jesus can build, regardless of a conscious belief in God. A senior from Iran stood before his peers during the post-lunch share time. He stepped up to the mic as Prayer Day was coming to an end. His words cast a look of surprise on many of his friends in the audience.

“I am not Christian. I am not Muslim. But I just have to say- whatever you guys are- you’re awesome. And these past six months [at Hillcrest] have been the best six months of my life.”

By the time the day was over every student prayed for world leaders, ISIS, and Hillcrest’s family. The school year is drastically different after a day of prayer and reflection.

 

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Comets Leap Over Last Years Section Champ to Start Season

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Comets Leap Over Last Years Section Champ to Start Season

Brandon-Evansville ended their season with a win last year. They earned 3rd place and boasted a strong team. It is likely the Chargers felt they were staring at mirrored image of their team last year, boding well for the Comets who return a nearly full lineup and are threatening a State run this year.

Sean McGuire stands on the mound most days for the Comets. He is the first building block that is causing many teams to realize Hillcrest is a wall between every team in the section and a trip to Target Field for State. Friday, McGuire showed Brandon-Evansville some of the tools he has in his pocket. McGuire went 3-for-4 at the plate, knocking in a run on 2 singles and a double. McGuire tore up the base path for the Comets, scoring twice on his way to earning the first win of the season from the mound. McGuire pitched 5 solid innings, allowing one hit and striking out 8 with great command.

Behind McGuire sits a team that is showing they're more than a back-up to McGuire's pitching. The Comets gunned down 4 runners after first base Friday, with only one miscue on a grounder in their first game of the season. In saving McGuire's arm, Steve Undseth, Hillcrest's head coach, called on Senior Chris Tungseth to tie up the game for McGuire. With Brandon-Evansville's bats warming up, Tungseth closed the game out with good command and a decent outing for the first game of the year.

Tungseth helped his cause by knocking in 2 RBIs on the night, scoring twice in his time at the plate. Reggie Undseth followed McGuire and Tungseth's lead, landing on first base 3 times to steal 2 bases on the day while tapping in an RBI.

The stat line shows that the Comets came to play, but the first inning at the plate for the Comets proved to set the tone for their first game of the season. Undseth led off with a walk. Jordan Foss followed suit. McGuire placed a single into the outfield and Undseth's quick footwork put him across home plate. Tungseth placed a solid double into the outfield, scoring Foss. With McGuire on third base his eyes were glued on home plate. When a third strike was thrown McGuire took off, seeing the ball roll away from Brandon-Evansville's catcher who was looking to get the out at first base. With McGuire stealing home, Hillcrest went up 3-0. Austin Perleberg-Hunt placed a single past the infield and Tungseth moved from third to home, putting the Comets up 4-0 with precision small-ball played in the first inning. 

This momentum fed into the third inning, where Hillcrest batted the entire order. Hits by Trey Bosek, Collin Erickson, Nick Foss, and Undseth put Hillcrest up 8-0 before the midpoint of the game. "It was a lot of fun running around the bases as 7 different guys scored," noted Steve Undseth after the game. "It was a great outing for our first game of the season."

Hillcrest opens their home field at the Legion Field on Monday, April 18 at 5pm.

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Knowledge Bowl Earns Top 10 Finish in Crowded State Competition

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Knowledge Bowl Earns Top 10 Finish in Crowded State Competition

Hans Holzner, Thomas Martinson, and Jake Steinle saw rewards for their work in knowledgebowl, after opting out last year. The trio earned a bid to compete in the knowledgebowl state competition last year, but committed to attend Hillcrest's band tour that fell on the same weekend. The three were determined to get back to state and represent what is happening in the halls of Hillcrest with some of the smartest students in the State. 

The busy trio joined Luke Bowman and Daniel Preston this year to form a 5 man team that was the best in the region by far. This 5 man team consisted of a State Cross-country runner, Section final football player, a member of Hillcrest's undefeated basketball team, and some musicians who won accolades at various music contests. The mosaic of successes that follow this team is nothing short of extraordinary. Their work in knowledgebowl's state competition followed suit.

Nervously sitting in room of 4X8 folding tables, the Hillcrest team set to work. Their night of excitement was behind them, walking around the campus of Craguns resort with the beauty of lakes country at their finger tips. The team was focused. They didn't get distracted by the resort.

When competition morning came the Comets were ready. The team won 3rd place in the written round, a true test of knowledge where students feverishly complete questions with paper and pencil. When the oral round opened, the Comets sat in a room with the best students in the state. They were in the 1st place room.

Their fingers lightly tapped the green strip that lay across their table. They were nervous. The buzzer strip isn't very sensitive to touch. The team turned their left ears to hear questions, their right hand held pencils over paper, prepared for the obscure math question to throw them off the history and geography sections of the quiz. When buzzers rang a gentle breeze was felt throughout the room. Students hold their breath in knowledgebowl, releasing pent up air in unison. When the first round finished, Hillcrest managed 10 points, well off the pace of their previous meet where they scored nearly 18 points in each round. 

The 10 point total bumped the Comets back to the second place room, a 6th place ranking followed them on the walk from 3rd place. They would experience similar results for much of the day, earning an average of 10 points in the proceeding rounds. The Comet's consistency kept them in the 3rd room for much of the day, where they competed against the 6th-9th place teams.

When the final buzzer sounded and the teams gathered for the awards ceremony, Hillcrest stood in 8th place. With medals around their neck they looked back at the 24 school competition, realizing their team is in the top 10 and is returning all members next year. Hans Holzner said the experience was incredible. He will look to repeat the success he and his team earned this year as they think about their Senior year. 

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Lady Comets Carry Home 10-2 Win In First Game of the Season

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Lady Comets Carry Home 10-2 Win In First Game of the Season

The Lady Comets fought through a lot of heartache last year. After their 5-9 record, 3-7 in the conference last year, there appears to be a renewed a spark that is igniting a fire in Craig Nersten's squad this year.

After watching All-conference pitcher Laura Tungseth walk across Hillcrest's graduation stage in May to begin a collegiate softball career at M-State in Fergus Falls, the Comets noticed a big hole on the mound. They looked to the backstop and saw a sinkhole where Tungseth's cousin, Abby Taylor, camped out for four years. Missing two key positions, it is natural to think the Comets were looking ahead to more dreary days. This couldn't be further from the truth.

When Hillcrest boarded the bus for their first softball game in Ortonville there was extreme excitement. Junior Nicole Dekok followed her mother's footsteps in treking to Fergus Falls to attend Hillcrest. Next to the tupperware container in Nicole's car packed with desk lamps and fans for her Hillcrest dorm room sat her softball bag. Nicole is an ace pitcher, looking forward to two dominating seasons with the Comets.

As Nicole crossed Ohio on her path to the Castle, Ruthanne Erickson was packing up her cleats for a new venture in softball at Hillcrest. Ruthie hasn't played a specific position, journeying to Hillcrest after hearing stories of the glory days from her mother. 

When school started in August, Nersten dusted-off his scouting book and started talking to girls about playing softball. He had a few holes to fill, but they didn't seem ominous. All-conference shortstop Megan Aasness would be back, along with her school record 27 steals in a single season. She plays well in Nersten's system. He is looking forward to her racking up more steals as she finishes her school year by setting a high bar with the school steals record.

Nersten also saw first base covered. Annie Murphy was honorable mention at the position at last seasons conference meeting. Sophie Iverson was also talked about at the gather. She is going to be a utility cornerstone for the Lady Comets. Emma Royce and Karina Larson will bring some baserunners in for the Comets with their keen eye and quick reflexes form the plate. They'll nail down the outfield for the Comets this year. Nersten knows this bedrock of returning players is going to keep eyes on the Comets all season. 

As Dekok and Erickson walked into the Student Union at Hillcrest in August, Nersten saw two of the remaining 3 pieces he needed to build a very successful team for the next few seasons. The final building block is Nersten's niece, Tara Ferenczy, who will play 3rd base and tack down the corner for the Lady Comets opposite Murphy. 

This new squad practiced despite frigid temperatures last week, boarding a bus yesterday to play in Ortonville. The nearly two hour bus ride didn't seem to phase the Comets. They came to show their conference the difference a year makes in girls softball.

As Dekok warmed up, throwing pitches at lightning speed to the Comets' new catcher, Ruthie Erickson, Nersten grew impressed. Erickson took the warm ups in stride, digging in and gritting her teeth as Dekok held little back to prep Erickson. The two would work like seasoned veterans throughout the afternoon. 7 innings later they would hug on the mound, the first of what is likely to be many victories for the new pitching-catching tandem for the Lady Comets.

Behind Dekok, the Lady Comets dusted off their gloves and pulled cobwebs from their cleats. The first three innings didn't resemble the final four. Sluggishness in the field and difficulty rounding the bases on offense led to only two Comet scores in the first three frames. Dekok kept her team in the game, striking out 12 Ortonville sluggers, walking none, and allowing only one earned run in her first start in red and white. 

The Comets caught fire in the fourth, after their legs were back under them from their two hour nap on the bus. Three runs in the fourth and sixth innings catapulted Hillcrest out of their funk. Megan Aasness was a shining gem for the Lady Comets, jumping on base with 3 hits, stealing 4 bases, including home.

Aasness benefitted from the Comets' early work in the batting cages. Her success on the base path was made possible thanks to Iverson and Dekok striking fear in the eyes of Ortonville's pitchers. The tandem hitters placed a few long doubles over the infield, calling extra attention from the mound that left Aasness freedom to stroll around the base path at her leisure. 

After 7 innings of Comet highlights Nersten directed his team in a huddle, casting vision for the season as the sky erupted in a cheer of pink, orange, and blue behind the huddle. Nersten's squad lined up by the fence before boarding the bus. They couldn't stop smiling after their dominant 10-2 victory.

The Comets travel to Pelican Rapids Monday for a 5pm game. Their home opener is Tuesday, April 19 at 5pm at Hannah Park.

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Classroom Turns to Community Time to Unite Nations

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Classroom Turns to Community Time to Unite Nations

Once a month during staff meetings, the entire student body (7-12) gathers on the floor of the Student Activity Center for a time of Community Building. This usually involves some kind of group competition or activity. Today's event was the 2nd Annual National Anthem Sing-Off.

200+ students were divided up into groups according to 13 countries: Canada, Thailand, Turks & Caicos, China, Vietnam, Norway, Korean, Iran, Malaysia, Russia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and America. At least one representative from each country was assigned the task of teaching their entire group their national anthem. They had fifteen minutes.

Much scrambling and laughter ensued as the "teachers" stretched themselves to teach foreign words and a strange melodies to their classmates. Finally, each group took center stage to perform. A predominantly Norwegian group learned and sang the Nigerian national anthem. A group from several countries stood in a semi-circle and belted out the Korean national anthem. As Oh, Canada was sung, one Canadian student was so moved he ran the circumference of the gymnasium holding an imaginary Olympic torch.

Finally, the moment we'd all been waiting for arrived. Who would take home the prize? The runner-up was announced--Norway--for Most Enthusiastic. They may not have gotten many of the words correct but they sang out with all their hearts. The winner was then announced...CHINA!!! The multi-ethnic group rejoiced and headed over to the Comet Café to collect their free slushies.

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The Last Words of Jesus Illuminate the Dying Wish of a Resurrected Man

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The Last Words of Jesus Illuminate the Dying Wish of a Resurrected Man

Six year-olds dress in cute little suits and dresses for church at Easter. Their outfits que factories to produce over 90 billion chocolate bunnies and 120 million pounds of candy for the holiday, as the Easter bunny dry cleans his suit before the big day. These images are accessible for nearly every american, but the traditions of Easter are redeemed in Stu Epperson’s The Last Words of Jesus. Readers receive a deeper purpose and significance for faith in reading Epperson’s take on Jesus’ last words.

Epperson gives readers an insightful look at the cross. He starts with Jesus brutally nailed to the tree. The first phrase Epperson camps out in is, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Epperson calls readers to a profound instruction that will likely cause many to fold the page and stare out the window as the direction takes hold.

Epperson illuminates an extreme example of how Christians should live their lives. Specifically zeroing in on Luke’s Gospel, Epperson shows how Jesus calls Christians to bless persecutors (5:11), forgive debtors (6:12), bless those who curse (5:44), and forgive seventy times seventy times (18:21-22). The call of the first chapter sets the stage for a grace-filled view of Jesus, who undeservedly hangs on a cross next to thieves.

Life and death, along with Heaven and Hell, are exposed to the two thieves on either side of the Middle Man. Jesus gives a word of pardon to the second thief who recognized his sin and repented by saying, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou  be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Epperson states, “To know Jesus is to know peace.” A thief, subject to his deserved punishment, is reborn and transformed. A pause in the second chapter leads readers to see the  incredible reality of what happens when believers truly know Christ.

Through the book Epperson reveals the truly human nature of Jesus, highlighting Good Friday as a time where Jesus takes care of business in a truly otherwordly way.

In the final chapter Epperson places the final strokes on the Good Friday picture of perfection, when Jesus said, “It is finished.” Epperson does something unique in his final pages, comparing Jesus’ saying to man’s constant striving for achievement. Epperson leads reader to see that Jesus secures peace with his perfection through the Cross. Epperson asks a provoking question in the shadow of Jesus. “Today, will you stop fighting the war and let His perfect peace conquer your soul?”

Through reading Epperson’s book, the reader notices how Jesus’ last words redirect our attention to the meaning of Easter. There is a new level of importance that is revealed through Epperson’s writing and honest questions. Readers see Easter as more than the bunnies and candy. Easter is the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection for the sins of all mankind.

A dying man’s final words cut to the heart of hope or hopelessness. In essence, they command more respect than any other words spoken. Jesus’ final words leave Christians in awe, and as Epperson artfully says, “[Jesus last words] won’t appear on his tombstone because Jesus’ last words were not His final words. The stone was rolled away!”

Epperson prays his book will lead readers to strive towards reading the Bible daily, investing their relationship with God, and ultimately hear Him speak to them and be changed forever. It is also the desire of the man who died on the Cross to live again. Epperson shows the heart of Jesus is to open a way for believers to know God, have confidence in Jesus' death, and live renewed in the work of the cross and resurrection from the grave.

 

 

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