Mounds View baseball ends state drought

As is customary when a team clinches a berth in the state tournament, the members of the Mounds View High School baseball team piled on top of each other in a celebratory heap last Wednesday at Midway Stadium. But there was a little more to it than just whooping it up because they’d made it to state.

Not only did the Mustangs realize their season-long goal of winning the section and getting the chance to perform on Minnesota high school baseball’s biggest stage, they ended a tournament drought that had reached 13 years.

Mounds View co-captain Max Knutson said the streak was always on their minds.

“For sure, definitely,” Knutson said. “You saw we absolutely freaked out when we won that.”

Co-captain Mitch Fredrickson, who drove in the berth-clinching run, said ending the drought makes it that much more special.

“We try not to talk about it as much as possible,” said Fredrickson. “It feels good to do it for ourselves but then to do it for the school as well. It hasn’t happened for a while so it feels pretty good to be part of history. The dog pile at the end said it all.”

A number of players on this year’s team were also members of last summer’s Tri-City Red American Legion team that went to state for the first time since 2007. Co-captain Lars Anderson was one of those players and for him going to state with Mounds View is more of an accomplishment.

“This is a bigger deal just because Mounds View hasn’t been to state in a while,” said Anderson. “Tri-City has had good teams in the past and has been to state.”

Mounds View will officially end the drought on Thursday when it faces Suburban East Conference rival Forest Lake in the Class AAA quarterfinals at 12:30 p.m. at Midway Stadium. The Mustangs are the fourth seed while the Rangers are seeded fifth.

The tournament continues on Friday with the semifinals at noon and 2:30 p.m. at Midway and the consolation semifinals at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at Siebert Field. The third-place and consolation championship games are also Friday but the championship game isn’t until Monday at 4 p.m. at Target Field.

Awaiting Mounds View in the second round will be either top-seeded Coon Rapids or unseeded Wayzata. The quarterfinal match-ups on the other side of the bracket have third-seeded Lakeville North facing unseeded Rocori and No. 2 Minnetonka taking on unseeded Rochester Mayo.

Mounds View locked up the state berth last Wednesday in a 3-2, nine-inning victory over Cretin-Derham Hall. The previous night, Cretin beat the Mustangs 5-4 in eight innings to force the winner-take-all second championship game.

Putting the loss behind them in a hurry was the strategy after falling Tuesday night.

“We just wanted to flush it out of our minds as quick as possible,” said Fredrickson. “We said five minutes after this it doesn’t matter anymore. We’ve got to come back and play the best game of the year tomorrow and for the most part we did that.”

Cretin did all it could to keep Mounds View thinking about the first loss. The Raiders scored first in game two and took a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth to keep the pressure on the Mustangs.

Nate Douvier got the ball rolling in the ninth without actually hitting the ball. He led off with a walk and pinch runner Ryan Placensia took second on Chance Carnahanís bunt single. Austin Smestad followed with a sacrifice bunt right before Alec Abercrombie singled through the hole at shortstop to score Placensia and tie the game.

That brought Fredrickson to the plate and he won the game with a hit that went about 60 feet. The perfectly-placed squeeze bunt up the first-base line plated Carnahan with the winning run and touched off the celebration.

“I just thought, ‘You gotta get a bat on the ball,’ and then he threw it high and outside,” Fredrickson said. “I just stuck it out there and got pretty lucky.”

A day earlier, Mounds View had its first crack at wrapping up the section but Cretin had different plans. The Mustangs grabbed an early 2-0 lead but gave up two in the third and two more in the fourth to fall behind.

Mounds View rallied to force extra innings as Austin Smestad homered in the fourth and doubled in a run in the sixth. Smestad also singled in the game to finish a triple shy of the cycle.

In the eighth, Cretin took advantage of a Mounds View error to score the go-ahead run and the closed out the game with a double play in the bottom half of the inning.

St. Anthony

The Huskies have been a thorn in the side of Minnehaha Academy in the playoffs a number of times over the years but the Redhawks returned the favor last week. For the first time since 2007, Minnehaha ended St. Anthony’s season.

Minnehaha beat St. Anthony twice in the Section 4AA tournament to advance to this week’s Class AA state tournament in St. Cloud. It is the first state tournament appearance for Minnehaha’s baseball team.

Since 2008, St. Anthony had beaten Minnehaha Academy six times in the post-season, including a pair of section final sweeps in 2008 and 2010. No doubt that St. Anthony head coach Troy Urdahl reminded his team of those years when they were preparing for the section final.

Recalling past successes against their rival wasn’t enough for the Huskies this time around, however. Minnehaha Academy took care of business in game one of the final on Thursday at Midway Stadium with a 2-0 victory.

Nick Grachek held the Huskies to four hits and retired 18 of the last 19 batters he faced.

St. Anthony fell behind 1-0 in the third inning but appeared to tie the game in the sixth inning when Mike Studer lifted a fly ball to center field. Zach Siggelkow tagged up on the play and scored easily but he was called out by the third base umpire when Minnehaha appealed that he left early.

The Redhawks added an insurance run in the sixth and closed out the game with three ground outs in the top of the seventh.

The victory was the second in four days over the Huskies, who dropped a 2-1 decision in the winner’s bracket final on June 3 at Fort Snelling.

After five innings, St. Anthony held a 1-0 lead and starting pitcher Siggelkow was dealing. He held Minnehaha hitless through four innings and got out of a mini-jam in the fifth with two huge strikeouts.

Offensively, St. Anthony wasn’t doing much against Minnehaha Academy’s all-state pitcher John Pryor but managed to push a run across in the fourth inning. Studer led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and moved to second on Chris Schieffer’s ground out. Ryan Rush then broke the scoreless tie with a double to right-center field to score Studer.

Rush ended up on third on a throwing error and with one out St. Anthony tried a squeeze play but Minnehaha foiled it by tagging out Studer.

In the end, failed opportunities cost the Huskies. St. Anthony had multiple base runners in the first, second and seventh innings but failed to get any runs in those frames.

Minnehaha got to Siggelkow in the sixth and did all the damage with two outs. Eamonn Manion got the rally started with a base hit and after a wild pitch he scored on Pryor’s base hit.

St. Anthony nearly got out of the inning with just one scored when Siggelkow had Pryor picked off first base but the throw was wide. Pryor went all the way to third and scored on Nick Grachek’s double.

With the loss, St. Anthony dropped into the loser’s bracket final, where it beat Blake 2-1 on June 4. The 10th-seeded Bears had already beaten the No. 2 seed St. Paul Highland Park twice, the fourth seed St. Paul Academy and seventh-seeded St. Paul Central.

St. Anthony, which beat Blake 2-1 on May 30, did so again last week with two runs in the bottom of the third inning. Justice Spriggs gave up one run on five hits.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com.

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