Tie game, bottom of the seventh inning, potential game-winning run standing on second base. Staring at that hand, Stillwater coach Mike Parker played the perfect card.
Parker called on junior Benjamin Borrman to pinch hit and the junior delivered, lacing a one-out single up the middle to score Mason Schwerzler from second, lifting Stillwater to a 3-2 victory over Mounds View.
Borrman, a catcher by position, missed a month of the season with a concussion after getting kicked in the head. He'd had all of one at-bat, in the Section 4 playoffs, before Thursday's big moment at CHS Field.
"He's been putting in time and time and time, after practice, before practice," Parker said. "The coaching staff felt like the first time we need a pinch hitter in a big spot, we're going with Ben. Guys who work hard like that usually come up big."
Stillwater (22-3), which won its 18th consecutive game, leaned on the arm of lefty Drew Gilbert, who came within one out of pitching a complete game. He left in the top of the seventh after reaching his pitch limit, having given up two earned runs and striking out 10.
Mounds View (17-10) pitcher Josh Bonde was a little more wild, yet almost as effective. He pitched a complete game, striking out four and walking five.
After the game, a beaming Borrman talked about getting the payoff for his hard work in recovery.
"I've been showing up to practice every day and working my way into the roster, hopefully. Coach said he'd give me a chance. Finally it happened and I was ready," Borrman said. "This is crazy. I can't describe it. It's awesome."
Minnetonka 3, Eastview 2: Nick Thimsen lined a one-out single to right to score Jack Hanson from second base, capping a two-run Minnetonka rally in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Skippers had tied the game earlier in the inning when Andy Andresen led off with a hit to center that skipped under the center fielder's glove, allowing Andresen to advance to third. After Hanson walked, Jake Zaetta laid down a perfect bunt to the left side that allowed Andresen to score.
"That was a beautiful bunt," Andresen said. "Perfect. No play at the plate."
For the first three innings, Tommy Springer was almost untouchable. Of the first 10 batters Minnetonka sent to the plate, six struck out and only one managed to put the ball in play.
Springer contributed at the plate as well, lacing a one-out double down the line in the top of the first inning and later scoring on a single by Logan Tollefson to give the Lightning a quick 1-0 lead.
Minnetonka (21-4) finally solved Springer in the bottom of the fourth. Jarod Wandersee got the Skippers' first hit of the game, a double to left, and Andresen drove him in with a single, tying the game 1-1.
"Springer was dealing really well, but we got to him a little bit later when we got used to his velocity," Andresen said.
Eastview (15-10) responded in its next at-bat. Catcher Ross Cochran singled in pinch-runner Kyle Nelson to retake a 2-1 lead.
Minnetonka had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, but an attempted steal of home failed with two outs, setting up the final inning heroics.
"This is a team that just keeps playing, keeps playing," Minnetonka coach Paul Twenge said. "If you open the door a little bit, sometimes they knock it open."
St. Michael-Albertville 3, Lakeville North 2: Pitcher Will Anderson had bumpy innings before. So when the Knights' junior gave up two runs to Lakeville North in the top of the first inning, he wasn't about to panic.
He didn't, shaking off the tough start and holding the Panthers scoreless over the final six innings.
"I've had a lot of rough innings this year," Anderson said. "Moorhead and Maple Grove both put up five-spots on me. This time, I just wanted to come back and battle."
After the Panthers scored twice in the top of the first, St. Michael-Albertville responded with two runs in the bottom half off of Lakeville North starter Nathaniel Peterson. Both pitchers settled in after that, with Peterson at one point retiring 12 consecutive batters.
Anderson was nearly as good, scattering six hits over the final six innings. "The best game I've ever thrown," he said.
St. Michael-Albertville (22-4) scratched out the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth. Star sophomore catcher Cody Kelly led off with a walk, then went to third on a sacrifice bunt when he realized no one was covering third base. When the Lakeville North first baseman overthrew third, Kelly came home to score.
"That's why we think twice about pinch-running for him," St. Michael-Albertville coach Paul Schumm said, referring to the common practice of pinch-running for catchers.
Lakeville North (16-8) nearly tied the game in the top of the seventh when St. Michael-Albertville failed to turn a double play with runners on first and third. The umpire at second base ruled baserunner interference and called both runners out, ending the game.
Blaine 6, Wayzata 1: In the 14 games before Thursday's state tournament quarterfinal, Blaine not only had won each one, but it also hadn't trailed for a single inning.
After four innings against Wayzata, they found themselves down 1-0. Their staff ace, Seth Miller, who had built a marvelous season with pinpoint control, had walked six batters. The usually unflappable defense flapped. Runners in scoring position were left stranded.
What was going on here?
"It got a little weird out there," Blaine coach Eric Feigum said. "I think Seth had seven walks all year."
Thing got back to normal in the fifth inning, when Blaine's Mikey Gottschalk and Jake Dorff both scored after back-to-back walks, giving the Bengals a 2-1 lead. They tacked on four more runs in the sixth, three courtesy of Connor Melton's bases-clearing double.
"I'm just proud of the way we overcame," Feigum said. "There was a lot going on, a lot of adversity. We talk all the time about how baseball tests your character and that was a perfect example of persevering."
Miller picked up the victory, finishing with seven strikeouts and just three hits allowed over six innings. When the walks were stacking up, Miller leaned on his coaches to see him through.
"I would just look in the dugout and see the coaches and just knowing they had confidence in me helped," Miller said. "It just took a little getting used to."