ST. CLOUD – Duluth Marshall 11th-grader Ben Pedersen, who might be the most dominant high school baseball player in Minnesota, had this pitching line Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state tournament: seven innings, three hits allowed, two runs allowed, three walks and nine strikeouts in a 6-2 victory over St. Cloud Cathedral.
And he didn’t have his best stuff.
“That was definitely not his sharpest performance but the bar for Ben and the expectations for Ben are so far out of whack now; ‘Wow, a three-hitter with a walk and how many strikeouts? Yeah, that’s disappointing,’ ” said Hilltoppers coach Joe Wicklund. “You kind of get to a spot where he’s played so well all year you expect the absolute best. For him, he was still awesome today and gave us a chance to run downhill with the pitching staff.”
Here are some amazing numbers: Pedersen (pictured) gave up two earned runs Thursday, equaling the number of earned runs he gave up during the entire regular season and Section 7 tournament.
Pedersen is as impressive physically as he is statistically. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 230 pounds. He has already made a verbal commitment to play college baseball at the University of Missouri in the Southeastern Conference.
He came into the state tournament with a 2018 pitching record of 6-1, an earned-run average of 0.26 and 91 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings. He’s also the Hilltoppers’ cleanup hitter with a .304 batting average. Duluth Marshall is the top-seeded team in the Class 2A field, taking a record of 22-4 into Friday’s semifinals here against Caledonia. They made their state tourney debut last year, finishing fourth.
Pedersen also played hockey until a few years ago, and now he is the fresh face of baseball in northeast Minnesota.
“I think we’re hoping people up north believe we can play baseball, too, a little bit more,” he said. “We’re just having fun with it.”
Ben’s fastball can reach into the low 90s, and he also throws a curveball, slider and changeup. He didn’t go all-out with his fastball against Cathedral, and that was part of the plan.
“Today I bet he was in the high 80s,” Wicklund said. “We talked about that before the game, the importance of having his best stuff in the seventh and the first, so kind of pacing yourself and being smart about it. The part that people sometimes miss about Ben is that I’ve never encountered a high school pitcher with his savvy. He calls his own games, he works on the mound, he makes adjustments, he talks it out with us between innings. So I would imagine if you asked him right now he’s got a little left in the tank because we asked him to hold on to it.”
The Hilltoppers are confident in their pitching staff within a back-to-back-to-back state tournament format. Friday’s semifinal winners will play for state championships Saturday at Target Field, while semifinals losers will play in third-place games later Friday at each site.
Marshall’s Derrick Winn has a 5-1 pitching record and 0.61 ERA, Brett Benson is 4-1, 1.23, and Carter Sullivan is 4-1, 1.38.
“We have a pretty good stable of pitchers we can count on,” said Wicklund. “But not having to use anybody besides the big horse is a huge, huge advantage heading into Friday and Saturday.”
--This is the biggest weekend of the year in Duluth, with Grandma’s Marathon festivities capped by the running of the race Saturday. Wicklund is the marathon’s board chairman, so he can be excused if his thoughts extend beyond baseball.
“It’s a perfect weekend to be down in St. Cloud,” he said, laughing. “There are three people who vote if you ever have to cancel the marathon, knock on wood. One of those people is hoping to not be anywhere near Duluth on Saturday.
“This is our best weekend of the year. The whole state, if not a huge part of the country, pays attention to us. And if we can pull a tiny bit of that attention down here, that would be pretty special.”
--The second game of the Class 2A quarterfinals featured two dominant pitching performances and a near no-hitter by Caledonia’s Casey Storlie in a 1-0 victory by the Warriors over two-time defending state champion Minnehaha Academy. Dylan Kiratli ended Storlie’s no-hit attempt on a single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Storlie strick out seven and walked four, while Minnehaha's Brock Brumley allowed only three hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. Caledonia's run came when Storlie singled in the fourth, moved to second on an infield out and scored on a single by Andrew Goergen.
--Maple Lake moved into the 2A semifinals with a 9-0 victory over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. Ben Clapp drove in four runs for the Irish and pitchers Grant Mergen, Mitch Holstad and Cole Trager combined on a four-hitter.
--Jordan won the final 2A quarterfinal, defeating Paynesville 6-2. Eighteen of the 20 players on the Paynesville roster were members of the Bulldogs football team that reached the Class 2A state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium last fall.State Baseball Tournament QuarterfinalsClass 1A
Heritage Christian 4, Sacred Heart 3
Parkers Prairie 8, Wabasso 6
Sleppy Eye 6, Hinckley-Finlayson 0
South Ridge 5, Rushford-Peterson 1Class 2A
Duluth Marshall 6, St. Cloud Cathedral 2
Caledonia 1, Minnehaha Academy 0
Maple Lake 9, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 0
Jordan 6, Paynesville 2Class 3A
Mahtomedi 3, Grand Rapids 2
Alexandria 2, Willmar 1
Rocori 3, Red Wing 2 (8)
New Ulm 5, South St. Paul 4 (9)Class 4A
Minnetonka 3, Eastview 2
St. Michael-Albertville 3, Lakeville North 2
Stillwater 3, Mounds View 2
Blaine 6, Wayzata 1State Lacrosse Tournament
State semifinals were played Thursday at Chanhassen High School and Minnetonka High School, with championship games scheduled for Saturday at Chanhassen. Girls semifinals
Apple Valley 11, Blake 6
Eden Prairie 18, Lakeville North 3
The girls championship game will be played at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Boys semifinals
Prior Lake 13, Minnetonka 11
Benilde-St. Margaret’s 9, Mahtomedi 6
The boys championship game will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday. Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn