Softball: Most of state field back from last year, newcomers are Elks and Prior Lake

Elk River will open against Orono on Thursday in a state softball tournament field that’s almost the same as last year with six teams returning.

The Elks and Prior Lake are the only new teams in this year’s Class AAA lineup, replacing Big Lake and Mankato East, respectively. The games will be held at Casswell Fields in North Mankato.

Stillwater (hometown of Elk coach Stacey Sheetz) was champion last year, beating Maple Grove 6-2 in the finals. Orono was the third-place team. They all return, along with Farmington, Forest Lake and Bloomington Jefferson.

The No. 7 ranked Elks (18-3), making their first appearance since the 2009 team won state, face No. 9 Orono (20-3) at 9 a.m., while Farmington (19-5) faces No. 2 Forest Lake (22-2), also at 9 a.m., in the same bracket. The winners will clash at 3 p.m.

Jefferson (15-5) takes on No. 3 Maple Grove (21-1) at 11 a.m. while Prior Lake (15-3) meets No.6 Stillwater (20-3), also at 11 a.m. Those winners meet at 5 p.m.

The championship game will be held Friday at 1 p.m.

Top-ranked Lakeville North lost to Park-Cottage Grove and Eastview in their section and Jefferson beat Eastview.