12U Rangers 3rd at state, prepare for nationals

Submitted photo
The 12U Rangers will test themselves against elite competition this month. Front row, left to right: Ruby Lamere, Julia Stanek. Middle row: Greta Reifschneider, Aryn Blumenthal, Madison Larrabee, Madelyn Sandstrom. Back row: coach Matt Arntzen, Ella Arntzen, coach Tom Zak, Katie Zak, Brooklyn Hansen, Bethany Weiss, Bailey Thomas, Amber Dunaski, coach Mike Dunaski.

From the youth level up to the high school varsity squad, there is a quite a lot of softball talent in Forest Lake.

One team among many that demonstrate that fact is the 12U Rangers squad, which recently qualified to compete in both state and national tournaments later this month.

“The girls push themselves to be the best they can be,” coach Mike Dunaski said. “They realize that as the top 12U team they’re the cream of the crop, but they know that to keep that status they have to work for it.”

The 12U squad finished at the top of the 21-team Tri-County League in the regular season, then finished second among 22 teams in a qualifying tournament to earn berths to state and nationals.

On July 8-9, the Rangers placed third in the Tier 1 tournament, the highest level of play.

“Only 16 teams in the state make it to Tier 1,” Dunaski said.

The Rangers will then prepare for the NAFA Northern National tournament, set to be played in Eagan at the Northview Athletic Complex and Lexington/Diffley Complex July 20-23. Just under 100 teams are expected to participate.

The Rangers have won 49 games so far this season, against just 13 losses and two ties. The Rangers have placed in every tournament they have played, including wins in Dundas and Rosemount and podium finishes in Woodbury, Chisago, Wisconsin Dells and the Forest Lake “Fast and Furious” tournament. They have challenged themselves against club teams from Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin in addition to their local league opponents.

The Rangers squad came together after tryouts in the fall, though some of the players have played together off and on over the past four years.

“These girls have a commitment to go above and beyond; they all strive to improve their game,” Dunaski said. “They aspire to be varsity players someday.”