Mustangs realize dream at Target Field

Ray Kinsella built the original Field of Dreams in the middle of an Iowa cornfield in a motion picture starring Kevin Costner. For the Mounds View High School baseball team its field of dreams is a few hours north of Kinsella’s.

The Mustangs fulfilled two dreams on June 17 in downtown Minneapolis. No. 1, they got to play at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins. No. 2, they won the first baseball state championship in school history.

“Target Field, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said senior co-captain Lars Anderson.

“To come up here and play is fun and to play for the state championship is even better,” said junior Sam Hentges. “And to win the state championship, it’s unbelievable.”

All three facets of the game came together for Mounds View in its 8-0 win over Rocori in the Class AAA final. The Mustangs amassed their eight runs on 14 hits, got a nine-strikeout performance from all-state pitcher Max Knutson and played error-free defense.

“To bring home the first state championship for Mounds View baseball is an unbelievable feeling,” Knutson said.

Knutson showed early on that it was going to be a long day for the Rocori hitters by fanning the first batter of the game on three pitches. He gave up four hits and walked one to improve his record for the season to 6-1. Next year, Knutson will be toeing the rubber for the University of Nebraska.

At the plate, Knutson got the Mustangs rolling in the bottom of the first inning. Knutson drew a two-out walk and courtesy runner Ryan Placensia took second on a throwing error and scored on Hentgesí double. Mounds View went up 2-0 when Justin Ortt singled home Hentges.

Knutson set the table for Hentges again in the third inning with a leadoff walk. Hentges made Rocori pay again by drilling a triple to score Placensia. Anderson followed with a double to bring home Hentges.

Mounds View then put the game out of reach in the fourth with four more runs and again did all of its damage with two outs. Hentges and Anderson started the rally with back-to-back singles and Hentges scored on Ortt’s base hit. A Nate Douvier walk then set the stage for Charlie Callahan’s two-run single that scored courtesy runner Joe Janey and Ortt. Austin Smestad then drove in the final run of the game with a double that scored Douvier.

Rocori could get little going against Knutson the rest of the way. In the seventh, the Spartans got their fourth hit of the game with a leadoff single but Mounds View quickly erased the baserunner with a 6-4-3 double play. Knutson then closed out the game and the season and wrapped up the title with one final strikeout.

“It’s for the kids and the school, frankly,” said Mounds View head coach Jon Nuss. “It means a lot to help them achieve their goal.”

Six of the Mustangs’ 14 hits came from their four and five hitters, Hentges and Anderson, respectively, as they each banged out three hits. Ortt and Callahan added two hits each and Hentges, Ortt and Callahan had two runs batted in each.

Hentges came to the plate in the fifth needing a home run to complete the cycle. He was aware of the situation but ended up striking out looking.

“I had it in the back of my mind but right before I went up to the plate, Coach Nuss was like, ‘Hey, if you get a good pitch, why not go for it?’” said Hentges “I was thinking curve on 2-2 but he threw a fastball middle in. I shouldíve put a bat on it.”

When that’s the only regret of the game, you’ve had a pretty good day.

Hentges, Knutson and Callahan were named to the all-tournament team along with Alec Abercrombie, who was held hitless by Rocori but did his share of hitting in the first two rounds of the tournament.

Mounds View, which adds the state title to the Section 4AAA championship and co-Suburban East Conference title it won earlier this season, reached the 20-win plateau with the victory and finishes the season 20-6.

“I’m just so proud of the boys,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to celebrate with them. Guys have stepped up in such a big way. It’s awesome.”

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

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