MACCRAY takes state crown
CHASKA -- Kelly Siverhus, a senior, held the Class A championship trophy while walking up the third base line, surrounded by well-wishers, as the sun set behind Chaska's quaint stadium on the Minnesota River bottoms.
"I can't believe it," he said. "Everyone played so well -- especially at the end."
Believe it. MACCRAY's baseball team is the 2009 Class A champions.
The Wolverines, behind the pitching of Jordan Smith, tamed the Wabasha-Kellogg Falcons 3-1 on Friday evening. Smith threw a six-hitter facing a team that had averaged 13 hits and 10.5 runs in its two wins on Thursday. The Falcons' run was unearned.
In three games, the three Wolverine starting pitchers -- Siverhus, Ethan Pauling and Smith (also twice in relief) -- allowed a total of four runs.
This final had plenty of tension throughout. The Falcons put two aboard with one out in the top of the seventh.
"That last inning my heart was beating pretty good," said Smith. "I stopped and took a couple of deep breaths."
The senior right-hander got Eric Sandstrom on a foul pop-up to first baseman Caleb Hanson in front of the MACCRAY dugout. Smith, who didn't walk a batter in 11 state innings, then got Wabasha's No. 9 hitter, catcher Tommy Greenheck, looking at a third strike.
The celebration began for fans and players of the three-town district -- Maynard, Clara City and Raymond. This was the baseball team's first trip to state and the first team title in any sport since the district formed in 1989-90.
"We knew we'd be decent this year. We knew we had a shot," said Tyler Dammann, who doubled in Brandon Madsen in the first inning for a 1-0 lead.
The Wolverines were undefeated two years ago entering playoffs, but lost to Luverne and Yellow Medicine East. Smith, Dammann and Hanson were starters on that team.
Eight starters returned from last year's team when Wabasso won Section 3A and went on to win the state title.
"We knew we had a talented team this year," said head coach Ted Perry. "I'm proud of how they played down here. They hadn't been here before and unless you're playing, you don't really understand the pressure. Each kid wants to do so well for his team and the community."
In all three games, the Wolverines made the plays in the field, including the final when they were outhit 6-4.
Perry singled out the diving catches of his wide-ranging center fielder Madsen. He made the all-tournament team along with Smith and Dammann.
Siverhus, in left field, made a running catch in the webbing of his glove to open the game and rob Matt Sandstrom of a lead-off hit. That seemed to announce that the Wolverines were still in the zone.
"I like being in these (pressure) situations," said Smith. "I think I pitch better. But my fielders made so many big plays behind me."
The Falcons tied it in the third. Tyler Wrede, who plays in left except when Smith is on the hill, threw high over Hanson, allowing Eric Sandstrom to reach base safely on MACCRAY's only error of the game. Wrede, who got one of MACCRAY's four hits, threw out the next batter and Smith fanned Sandstrom. But Holden Hastert punched a solid single -- his second hit -- to the outfield allowing the run to score.
The Wolverines broke the tie in the bottom of the fifth with two runs. Jason Holmgren, the designated hitter and youngest player in the lineup, was hitless in eight official trips. But the junior-to-be had been putting the ball in play and this time a lazy fly ball fell between two racing Falcon outfielders in the right-center gap.
Madsen sacrificed pinch runner Jamie Boonstra to second and then Dammann walked. The Falcons changed pitchers, but two more walks and an infield error produced a 3-1 MACCRAY lead.
Smith, who is headed to Minnesota-Duluth to play baseball, made it stand.
Dammann said Smith used his lively fastball to jam the Falcon hitters.
"He had a nice little changeup working, too," said the senior backstop. "That's one of his best games this year, and the defense was outstanding."
Shaun Condon, who moves from third to shortstop when Smith throws, said he never was able to relax the entire game. It didn't show; he handled five chances smoothly, including one double play with second baseman Dylan Aeikens.
"I've never been so nervous," said Condon.
When did you feel this team was state championship material, he was asked?
"When we got in those section championship games with Adrian and won," he said. "We got on a good roll in the playoffs. We were hitting the ball and we worked hard on our fielding."
The Wolverines piled up 24 wins and memories to last a lifetime.
MACCRAY 3, Wabasha-Kellogg 1
Wabasha-Kellgg 001 000 0 -- 1 6 2
MACCRAY 100 020 x -- 3 4 1
HITTING - Wabasha-Kellogg: Holden Hartert 2-for-3, rbi; Zach Wolfe 1-for-3; Chris Sill 1-for-3; Ben Edelbach 1-for-3; Logan Stuhr 1-for-3 ... MACCRAY: Brandon Madsen 1-for-3; Tyler Dammann 1-for-2, 2b, rbi; Tyler Wrede 1-for-2; Jarrod Holmgren 1-for-3
PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Wabasha-Kellogg: Holden Hartert (L) 4Zc-4-3-2-2-1; Matt Sandstrom 1Xc-0-0-0-2-2 ... MACCRAY: Jordan Smith (W) 7-6-1-0-0-2