Mustangs enjoy Target Field again

Mounds View’s Sam Hentges delivers a pitch during the Class AAA state championship game at Target Field in Minneapolis on June 17. Hentges threw a complete-game, five-hit shutout to help lead the Mustangs to their second consecutive state title. (photos courtesy of Larry Carnahan)

State tournament notebook

For the second straight year, Target Field was a hospitable host to the Mounds View High School baseball team. The Mustangs have played there twice and are 2-0 on the major league diamond.

This year’s team won the Class AAA state title with a 9-0 victory over Eden Prairie. A year ago, the Mustangs beat Rocori 8-0 to claim the crown.

“I wish we could play here every day,” said Mounds View catcher Wyatt Meyer.

Since Target Field began hosting the high school championship baseball games in 2010, only two schools have multiple victories and no losses on the perfectly-maintained diamond. Eden Valley-Watkins is one, having won Class A titles in 2010 and 2011.

Mounds View is the other.

Other schools with two appearances in the finals at Target Field are Eden Prairie, Burnsville and Rocori, which all have 1-1 records there.

St. Cloud Cathedral is the only team to have made three appearances at Target Field. The Crusaders won Class AA titles in 2011 and 2014 and lost in the championship game in 2012.

All-tournament team

The 12-member Class AAA all-tournament team included three players each from the two finalists.

Mounds View’s representatives were Hentges, Meyer and Tucker Gran. Hentges threw a pair of complete-game shutouts in the tournament and also contributed offensively by going 4-for-12 with two doubles and two runs batted in. Meyer went 2-for-3 against Eden Prairie and finished the tournament 4-for-8. Gran also went 4-for-8 with two hits apiece against Elk River and Lakeville North.

Postponements turn out to be good and bad

The original schedule for the state tournament had all three rounds being completed in three consecutive days. That changed when the weather forecast for the day of the finals (Saturday, June 14) showed lots of rain being a distinct possibility.

Armed with that information, the Minnesota State High School League decided to move the three championship games to June 16. The Class A and AA games went off without a hitch on June 16 but as the afternoon progressed, rain moved into Minneapolis and forced yet another delay of the Class AAA game.

Mounds View and Eden Prairie ended up playing the Class AAA final on June 17, five days after the quarterfinals. Those extra days were enough rest for Hentges and he replaced Henry DeCaster as the Mustangs’ championship-game starter.

“It’s a hard deal for Henry but he’s a team guy and he gets it,” said Mounds View head coach Mark Downey. “Henry’s time is going to come. Henry is an excellent pitcher and his time is going to come this summer and next spring he’ll be our No. 1 and he’ll get his chance to shine.”

Hentges was also sympathetic to DeCaster.

“I know he’s a little disappointed not being able to pitch as expected,” Hentges said. “I would be the same way if I didn’t get to pitch, but I know that he’s really happy that our team came out on top. He’s one of my best friends and I think he knows that he’s an incredible pitcher. I think winning a state championship is more important to him that being able to pitch.”

Just the beginning?

When Hentges took the mound in the championship game, it was his first experience pitching at Target Field. He did not throw any innings in last year’s title game, which Max Knutson started and won with a complete-game effort.

Following the game, Hentges was asked about his future and whether he contemplated his baseball future at all while on the mound.

“I don’t think of that immediately but hopefully if everything goes right it won’t be the last time I pitch in a major league ballpark,” Hentges said.

Between the end of the section tournament and the beginning of the state tournament, Hentges was drafted in the fourth round by the Cleveland Indians. He was expected to fly to Cleveland last weekend and meet with Indians officials to discuss whether to sign a contract with the club or continue with his original plan of playing college baseball at Arkansas next spring.

“The decision whether I sign or go to college will be made in the next week or so,” Hentges said. “We’ll make the decision with my family and we’ll take it from there.”

As it turns out, he didn’t wait for the weekend. Hentges signed a deal with Cleveland following the championship game last week and is now a member of a Major League Baseball franchise.

One final quote

“All credit [goes] to the kids,” Downey said. “They were mentally tough. They hung with it. They played great defense. We won 19 of our last 20 and you don’t do that unless you play great defense and pitch really well. Throw in some timely hits and there’s your formula for success.”

— Brian Meyers

Class AAA all-tournament team

The Class AAA all-tournament team:
•  Tucker Gran, Mounds View
•  Sam Hentges, Mounds View
•  Wyatt Meyer, Mounds View
•  Corey Binger, Eden Prairie
•  Jack Sullivan, Eden Prairie
•  Ryan Zimmerman, Eden Prairie
•  Dalton Lehnen, Lakeville North
•  AJ Sayer, Lakeville North
•  Mitch Mauer, Lakeville South
•  Corey Reiter, Lakeville South
•  Ben Johnson, Elk River
•  Mike Baumann, Mahtomedi


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