Henry Sibley coach Greg Fehrman wanted his squad to embrace its losing record. It doesn't have to any longer.
The Warriors won the Class 3A championship by defeating conference rival Mahtomedi 8-4 Monday at Target Field. They won 11 of their last 12 games to get to the .500 mark (15-15) — the worst record to win a championship in baseball state tournament history.
"We don't have a losing record any more," Henry Sibley outfielder Sam Gantman yelled as he waited to hoist the championship trophy. He singled in the first run and had an RBI in each of their three state tournament games.
"Baseball is about streaks, and we got hot at the right time," said Henry Sibley catcher Matt Richards, who had two hits and scored twice.
Richards found himself at the bottom of the celebration pile after getting tackled by jubilant winning pitcher Joe Ihrke, who gave up two runs and four hits in four innings in relief of starter Malik Wilson.
"He called such a good game that I had to tackle him," said Ihrke, who chucked his glove skyward after the final out. "This is unbelievable."
The Warriors lost twice to Mahtomedi this season, 7-3 and 14-4. Both teams play in the Metro East.
"I'm at a loss for words," said Fehrman, an assistant coach with the Warriors when they won their other state championship (Class 2A) in 1994. "Hats off to the kids."
The Warriors broke a 2-2 deadlock with four runs, aided by two Mahtomedi errors, with two outs in the third. Ihrke doubled over the center fielder's head, and scored when an errant relay throw bounced into the stands.
The Warriors scored three more times using four consecutive singles. Walter Matos singled in one and two more scored on Max Buell's infield hit followed by a throwing error.
When Ihrke came in to pitch, Mahtomedi's Trevor Moses greeted him with a solo home run to left field. It was the third since the championship games were moved to Target Field
Ihrke allowed a run in the seventh on John Peterson's triple before getting the final out on a grounder.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride,'' Ihrke said. "I'm glad the ride ended on top."