At 8:04 p.m. last June 21, rain was falling at Target Field during the bottom of the final inning of the final game of the high school baseball season. That’s when lightning struck … lightning in the form of a two-run, two-out, bases-loaded single by Burnsville junior Bo Hellquist. The game-winning hit capped a six-run rally that gave the Blaze the Class 3A state championship with an improbable 6-5 victory over Maple Grove.
“I think everybody knew we could do it, even though we were down five runs,” Hellquist told me before Burnsville’s home opener Wednesday afternoon. “We hadn’t really been hitting the ball, things weren’t going our way, we’re weren’t getting the bounces, but faith in each other and faith in ourselves helped us pull it off.”
The comeback was miraculous. Maple Grove had scored five runs in the fifth inning and led 5-0 when Hellquist opened the bottom of the seventh with a single. When his turn to bat came around again later in the inning, the score was 5-4. Then came the hit that will be long remembered.
Ten months after that game, Blaze coach Mick Scholl is still trying to catch up with all the emails and letters of congratulations.
“I’ve had over 300 emails from all over the United States and around the world,” he said. “I heard from people serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, I had letters from people who graduated back in 1964 and ’65. Winning a state championship really meant a lot to this community.”
The state title was Burnsville’s first in baseball; the Blaze had finished as the 3A runner-up a year earlier. But in the What Have You Done For Me Lately Department, a new season has begun. It is no surprise, however, that the Blaze are No. 1 in the first rankings of the season, released this week by the Minnesota High School Baseball Coaches Association. They return a solid group of veterans, forged by last year’s run to the championship.
There is one missing piece, though, and it’s a big piece. Righthanded senior pitcher Adam Lambrecht, whose 9-0 record last year (with 54 strikeouts in 48 innings) included victories in the state semifinals as well as the state championship game, is on the sideline all season after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery last fall.
“Having Adam Lambrecht going down, that put a hole in our lineup. That one hurt us,” said Scholl (pictured here). “He’s the kind of kid you hand the ball to and you know you’re going to get the best. Our Achilles heel this year, I guess, will be pitching but it gives other kids some opportunities to step up.”
Lambrecht was pitching in a fall league when his elbow blew. He had surgery to replace a ligament in November and is on track to begin his collegiate career at North Dakota State next spring. Despite being unable to play, he remains a big part of the Burnsville team, helping other pitchers, working on conditioning and doing whatever he can for his teammates.
“He’s 100 percent part of the team,” Scholl said. “He said he wanted to help out and he’s been here every day.”
Lambrecht said, “So far everybody’s been really supportive and made me feel like part of the team, and I’m really happy about that. I love this team. I’m here to support and cheer for the guys.”
Burnsville took a 3-0 record into a Thursday game at Edina. After spending spring break in the Phoenix area – where they spent eight hours a day practicing – the Blaze have defeated Eagan, Duluth East and Lakeville North. The lessons that were so valuable a year ago – never quit, always stay together – are already a valuable tool for the 2012 Blaze.
“Coach talks about that all the time, being humble and not taking anything for granted,” Hillquist said. “We know we’re the team that everybody wants to get and we put a target on the back of our shirt like we did last year. Last year the target represented just getting to Target Field, and this year it’s a target on our back. We can’t take anything for granted, we’ve got to work hard and never give up.”
No matter how this season ends, the members of the 2011 team will always treasure their memories from Target Field. The 5-0 deficit … the six-run seventh … Hellquist’s winning single … the celebratory dogpile in the rain.
“When you break it down and think of all the individual aspects of it, it just becomes so unreal,” Hellquist said. “Not many teams put up six runs in an inning, let alone in the state championship game. With all the different aspects all coming together, it’s just amazing that we did it.
“I watch the final at-bat and I still get chills when you see everybody jumping on top of each other.”
--To see a photo gallery of the Burnsville baseball team, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
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