There was the raucous Kasson-Mantorville dugout, full of crazed cheering. A Navajo blessing came straight from Arizona. Even the head coach broke form and told a pregame joke.
Small reasons, perhaps, behind the KoMets’ 8-1 victory over Perham in the Class 2A championship game at Target Field on Monday. But what they did on the field to establish their superiority trumped all of that.
Senior Joey Hyde pitched his second complete game of the tournament, scattering five hits and giving up one harmless second-inning run. The offense broke out for its best game of the tournament, pounding out 12 hits, the highest total of the entire 2A bracket. The defense was typically solid, committing one meaningless error after the game was already out of reach.
“We didn’t feel nervous at all,” Hyde said. “We were the higher seed and we had beaten the top seed Friday, so we were pretty confident.”
The KoMets (25-6) drew support from sophomore Austin Yeigh’s grandparents, who are of Navajo descent and performed a good luck ceremony from their home in Arizona. Coach Broc Threinen even changed up his routine, pulling out an old joke to relieve any lingering nervousness.
“I only told one,” Threinen said. “But I usually don’t tell any.”
“That gave a little laugh and settled us down,” shortstop Jayden Prigge said.
The key to the KoMets offense was the top of the batting order. Leadoff hitter Riley Donovan, Wade Starkey and Prigge combined for four hits and four runs, including three in the bottom of the first inning as Kasson-Mantorville took control with an early 3-0 lead.
“It took the wind out of our sails early,” Perham coach Hans Hanson said. “It made us play from a defensive position.”
Threinen said he wasn’t surprised by his trio.
“Riley’s a tough out at the top, Wade has been great and Prigge is a hitting machine,” Threinen said. “We’ve seen that all year.”
As the Kasson-Mantorville offense asserted itself, Hyde kept Perham (18-6) off balance. Spotting his pitches and throwing strikes, Hyde found himself in trouble just once, after he gave up back-to-back singles starting the second inning. He rebounded, giving up three more hits — two in the top of the seventh, when the KoMets held a comfortable 8-1 lead — and three walks.
“Joey was ready to go,” Threinen said. “After the way he pitched in the quarterfinals, I wasn’t going to tell him he wasn’t pitching today.”
Getting that three-run lead, Hyde said, “felt great. We got that lead and it meant we could relax and play. If I walked someone or we made an error, it wasn’t going to hurt.”
The victory marked the second boys’ state championship this school year for Kasson-Mantorville, which had not won a title in the school’s previous 59 years of existence. The wrestling team won the Class 2A championship in March.
“Honestly, I never thought we’d do this,” Donovan said. “It’s a great way to end a career.”