Waconia High School baseball coach Mark Grundhofer knew what had just happened: His Wildcats had completed a perfect season by defeating Hibbing 6-1 Monday at Target Field in the Class 3A state championship game.
They became only the ninth baseball team in MSHSL history to win every game. When that fact was mentioned to Grundhofer, he grinned and said, “That’s crazy. In this game? Seriously? Who wins all their games?”
MSHSL state baseball tournaments have been held for 70 years. The first team to finish unbeaten was Chisholm, which went 16-0 in 1948. Four other schools did the same in the one-class era: Halstad went 13-0 in 1952, Austin went 15-0 in 1954, Little Falls finished 13-0 in 1957 and Richfield went 25-0 in 1965.
In the multi-class era, Cretin-Derham Hall was 29-0 in 1998, Eden Valley-Watkins was 27-0 in 2010 and St. Cloud Cathedral finished 25-0 in 2015.
Waconia’s record a year ago was 12-12, a fact that didn’t provide much of an omen for the Wildcats’ history-making 2017 season.
“No, you can’t see this coming,” Grundhofer said. “I knew the kids, the senior guys, those six guys, they learned a lot last year. We had a lot of mistakes last year that we got through. They came back here determined.”
Waconia pitcher Dillon Whittaker held Hibbing (19-9) hitless for three-plus innings, by which time the Wildcats held a 4-0 lead. Whittaker struck out six and walked none in going the seven-inning distance. Waconia banged out 10 hits, with Robbie Smith getting three and Alex Longelin and Austin Friedrich two apiece.
The Wildcats won their state quarterfinal and semifinal games in dramatic fashion, defeating Mahtomedi and Marshall by scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
“They’re just mentally tough kids, Grundhofer said. “You could see the confidence they have in each other. They were ready to play and they wanted to get it done and not have to wait until the last inning. It helps the old coach out, that’s for sure.”Class 1A: Parkers Prairie Takes The Next Step
One year after falling in an 11-inning state championship game, the Parkers Prairie Panthers defeated Legacy Christian 6-3 to claim their first baseball state title. In the 2016 championship game, Springfield defeated Parkers Prairie 4-2.
Levi Arnold, who finished the season with a 12-0 record on the mound, pitched a complete-game six-hitter as Parkers Prairie finished with a 26-2 record. He threw 92 pitches, striking out two and walking two. Travis Yohnke, Casey Peterson and Matt Ferley each had two hits for the Panthers. Jarvey Hill had two hits for Legacy Christian (21-5). Class 2A: Minnehaha Academy Repeats
In a rematch of last year’s state semifinals, Minnehaha Academy defeated Pierz 6-4 to claim its second consecutive state title. In last year’s state semis, Minnehaha Academy defeated Pierz 4-2.
The Redhawks (26-2) broke a 4-4 tie with two runs in the seventh inning. With one out, a ball hit by Simon Huyck glanced off the first base bag and rolled deep into right field as Huyck went to second. Noah Dehne singled to score Huyck, and Dehne later scored on a double by Alex Evenson.
Alex Jordan had three hits for the Redhawks, while Lane Girtz and Matthew Kummet each had two hits for the Pioneers (26-3).Class 4A: Unseeded Eden Prairie Wins
The Eden Prairie Eagles were seeded fourth in the Section 2 playoffs and not seeded among the top five teams in the eight-team state tourney field. But they are now state champions after defeating Forest Lake 5-1.
Winning pitcher Jack Zigan gave up three hits in seven innings for the Eagles (18-9). Forest Lake starter Cameron Kline struck out 12, walked two and gave up seven hits in six innings for the Rangers (20-7). Ryan Wrobleski and Matthew Dolan each drove in two runs for the Eagles.Special Recognition For Merkle
Kevin Merkle, who has served with passion, dedication and commitment as an MSHSL associate director for 16 years, was honored during a brief ceremony before the Class 4A championship game. Kevin will transition to a part-time role with the MSHSL later this summer; longtime Mounds View High School activities director Bob Madison will succeed Kevin as associate director in charge of baseball, football, boys basketball and dance.
Twins president Dave St. Peter presented Kevin with a Twins jersey that had “Merkle” stitched on the back. St. Peter later Tweeted: “Few have had a more positive impact on MN HS athletics + activities than Kevin.”All-Tournament Teams
Jesse Sather, Brett Sundquist, Fosston; Liam Blaschko, Wabasha-Kellogg; Taylor Bunting, Trevor Pederson, Skyler Reddemann, Red Rock Central/Westbrook-Walnut Grove; Josh Peterson, Nils Anderson, Ethan Mocchi, Legacy Christian;
Andrew Johnson, Travis Yohnke, Levi Arnold, Parkers Prairie.Class 2A
Wyatt White, New London-Spicer; Joe Macken, Rochester Lourdes; Derrick Winn, Peter Hansen, Duluth Marshall; Hunter Malachek, Ben Reilley, Maple Lake; Lane Girtz, Matthew Tautges, Matthew Kummet, Pierz; Alex Evenson, Justin Evenson, Bennett Theisen, Minnehaha Academy. Class 3A
Jamie Berg, Mahtomedi; Jake Rascher, St. Thomas Acasdemy; Conner Hammerback, Jake Drew, Alexandria; Mason Penske, Logan Tomasek, Marshall; Travis Carruth, Dylan Mattson, Anthony Kanipes, Hibbing; Dillon Whitaker, Jacob Hendricks, Alex Logelin, Waconia. Class 4A
Charlie Horton, Maple Grove; Tyler Young, Wayzata; Ronald Sweeny III, Max Meyer, Woodbury; Nick Split, Gavin Baker, Lakeville North; Cameron Kline, Jake Wensmann, Forest Lake; Zack Elliot, Connor Kehl, Bailey DeMets, Jack Zigan, Eden Prairie.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has seen/visited: 800
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry in 2016-17: 12,001
*Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn