The Minnesota State High School Class 4A Softball Tournament begins Thursday in North Mankato with opening round games at 9:00 a.m. and the next round at 3:00 p.m. at Caswell Park.  The defending State Champion Stillwater Area Ponies are back to defend their Cinderella story of a year ago.

Last season Stillwater entered the tournament with a 13-13 record and defeated top seed Park in the title game 5-1.  The Ponies are 18-8 this season and are the #4 seed.  They face #5 seed Farmington in their opener.

Top seed this years is Forest Lake (22-2) who plays St. Michael-Albertville (19-5) in the first round.  The Rangers have two losses to one team (Park of Cottage Grove) and that team is not at the state tournament.

#2 seed Maple Grove (22-2) opens with Edina (16-7).  The Crimson lost to Anoka 4-3 and Rogers 7-6 in 9 innings.  The Hornets lost twice to a team they could face in the next round Eden Prairie (19-6).

#3 seed East Ridge of Woodbury (22-2), with losses to Forest Lake twice (15-2 and 9-5) is the opening opponent for Eden Prairie.

The Class 4A tournament does boast the top 3 ranked teams according to the Minnesota Softball Coaches Association.  Forest Lake, Maple Grove and East Ridge.