Henry Sibley has turned a nightmarish season into a dream come true, upsetting Benilde-St. Margaret's 4-1 in the Class 3A semifinals at Siebert Field on Friday and earning a spot in their second state championship game.
The victory set up an all Metro East Conference final with Mahtomedi.
"We're not supposed to be here," said Warriors third baseman/pitcher Joe Ihrke, who threw four hitless innings in relief of Sam Pressman, with five strikeouts and one walk for the victory. "We now believe in ourselves, and aren't afraid to lose."
Henry Sibley (14-15) won only four of its first 18 games this season. Its only loss since was a 1-0 decision to St. Thomas Academy in the Section 3 tournament.
"We've had a rough year, but we're not going to run away from it," Warriors coach Greg Fehrman said. "We're embracing it."
The Warriors opened the scoring in the first without a hit. Leadoff hitter Max Buell was hit by a pitch, advanced to second and third on wild pitches and scored on Charley Hesse's sacrifice fly to center.
Benilde-St. Margaret's (18-8) evened the score in the second when No. 9 hitter Cole Jacob reached on an error and Jack Qualen followed with a triple down the left field line.
The Warriors regained the lead with two runs in the fourth when Ihrke was issued a bases-loaded walk, and Autyn Garibay-Moryn laid down a suicide squeeze bunt.
Ihrke moved from third base to the mound in the bottom half of the frame. He retired the first eight batters he faced before issuing a walk in the sixth. It was the only hitter to reach base against him.
"That was the best we've seen Joe in a while," Fehrman said.
Henry Sibley added an insurance run in the fifth on Sam Gantman's two-out single.
"We have done a good job in situational hitting," Fehrman said. "I'm not going to overthink what we are doing right. I'm just along for the ride."
Mahtomedi 4, Little Falls 1: Zephyrs coach John Hardgrove likes veteran pitchers in pressure situations. It was a no-brainer who he was starting in the semifinals: senior Mitch Nordin.
He responded with a nifty four-hitter to lead the Zephyrs (21-5) past the Flyers (20-6). Mahtomedi, which has reached the state tournament three consecutive years, will be appearing in its first baseball title game.
"He hasn't been on a regular schedule for us this year, but he was the key to our success last year," Hardgrove said. "He gained a lot of confidence last year."
Nordin, who is 5-2 this season, grew stronger as the game progressed. He retired the last 10 batters.
"This was probably my best performance of the year," said Nordin, who only struck out three. "I put trust in our defense to make plays, and they did again [Friday]."
Mahtomedi scored four runs in the second inning. The bottom three hitters in the order — Joe Rock, Adam Stone and Charlie Bartholomew — delivered three run-scoring singles. They had five of the Zephyrs' eight hits.
"We can produce runs one through nine in the order," Nordin said. "The bottom of our order came through with some key RBI."