The Eden Prairie American Legion baseball team left Tupelo, Miss., all shook up on Tuesday night.
Down four runs after one inning against a team from the birthplace of Elvis Presley, Eden Prairie came back to tie the score, then win 5-4 in 13 innings in the championship game of the American Legion World Series before an overflow crowd announced at 5,896 at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C. It is the first national title for Eden Prairie, which was the runner-up in 2007 and 2010.
"After what we went through last year [losing twice to Midwest City, Okla., on the final day], this is unreal," Eden Prairie coach Scott Hackett said. "We knew a team could win twice on the final day. We had experienced it firsthand."
It marked the second-longest championship game in history and the first time in 38 years that it had gone to extra innings. The first championship game was decided in 1926.
Tyler Peterson, who walked to open the top of the 13th inning and advanced to third on an error, scored the winning run when Jordan Smith bounced into a fielder's choice with one out and runners on the corners. Peterson tied it at four with an RBI double with one out in the eighth.
Closer Lance Thonvold pitched six shutout innings in relief of Tyler Ruemmele to pick up the victory. Thonvold gave up five hits while striking out four and walking one during his longest relief outing of the season.
"Lance was phenomenal in pressure situations," Hackett said. "He kept us in the game until we could score a run."
The Gophers recruit gave up only one earned run in 15 innings of work in the regional and World Series. He also hit four home runs in the six games as Eden Prairie closed with a five-game winning streak after getting blown out in its opener.
Tupelo threatened in the bottom of the 13th, using back-to-back singles with one out to put runners on first and second. On an 0-1 pitch to the No. 9 hitter, Thonvold worked a timing play with shortstop Blake Schmit to perfection to pick Cody Shrewsbury off second.
"I have to give all the credit to Blake on the pickoff play," Thonvold said. "He picked the perfect time to call it. I was relieved after that. Pitching with only one guy on base is a breeze. I am used to that."
Tupelo got the lead-off batter on in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings but failed to score off Thonvold.
"The last two years has been unbelievable," Thonvold said. "To win it with the same group of guys is great."
Schmit hit a solo home run in the fifth, pulling Eden Prairie within 4-3. He had three hits.
Third baseman Ryan Maenke drove in Eden Prairie's first two runs with a double in the second. The Minnesota state champions had managed only six hits in the 13 innings off Mississippi State recruit Will Cox and two relievers.
Tupelo scored four runs, only one of them earned, in the first inning to take the quick lead. Tupelo had four of its 12 hits in the first.
A day earlier in the double-elimination tournament, Eden Prairie had beaten Tupelo 14-4 in seven innings due to the 10-run rule. Tupelo scored three runs in the first inning of that matchup.
In earlier action Tuesday, Eden Prairie rode an outstanding pitching performance by Adam Bray to reach the finals. The righthander pitched a six-hitter in a 2-1 victory over Las Vegas. He struck out nine, including the side in the ninth when he gave up the only run on a two-out double, and walked one.
Ruemmele accounted for both runs in the second inning, doubling home the first run before later scoring on an error.
Eden Prairie became the fifth team in Minnesota history to win the American Legion World Series. The previous champions were the Rochester A's (2003), Tri-City Red (1999), Edina (1983) and Richfield (1943).