With Mahtomedi's Grant Taival and Alexandria's Carter Stockert locked up in a pitchers duel, both teams were looking for any way to manufacture a run.
It took a break for the Zephyrs, in the final inning, to make it happen.
Pinch-runner Brandon Anderson, a senior, scored on a passed ball on a suicide-squeeze play with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, producing the lone run in Mahtomedi's 1-0 victory over Alexandria (16-7) in the Class 3A semifinals Friday at Siebert Field.
"I feel devastated for Alexandria," Zephyrs first-year coach Rob Garry said. "They played well enough to win, but we'll take it."
Anderson was running for junior Andrew Murphy, who led off the inning with a single. He reached second on a sacrifice bunt and third on a grounder, setting the stage for Garry's "risky call." Carter Shook, the Zephyrs' No. 9 hitter, pulled his bat back on the high 1-0 pitch that bounced off the Cardinals catcher's glove.
"It was super-unorthodox," Garry said. "It was a percentage play."
Taival and Stockert, both No. 2 starters, threw like aces, each allowing just five hits while pitching complete games. Taival struck out and walked two while Stockert fanned six and walked five.
"That was probably Grant's best game," Garry said. "Both pitchers were tremendous in a big situation."
Taival credited his defense, especially senior second baseman Sam Ladapat, who turned two superb diving stops to his left into outs.
"My defense behind me had more to do with my performance than me," Taival said. "Sam is always big."
Mahtomedi (19-4) tried the surprise element in the sixth. With the bases loaded and two outs, senior Jamie Berg tried to steal home and was called out.
An inning later, Berg was celebrating with his teammates. His promise to Taival two years ago was coming to fruition.
"He told me we would be back [in the championship]," said Taival, referring to Mahtomedi losing to Henry Sibley 8-4 in the finals in 2016. "It's a dream come true."
Rocori 5, New Ulm 0: Rocori pitcher Brandon Gill ecstatically bounced off the mound, high-fiving Tylor Schroeder. The third baseman made a diving stop to his left to start an inning-ending double play.
Schroeder was reciprocating a few innings later after Gill threw a five-hit shutout.
"Our defense was huge," said Gill, who struck out five and walked three. "They made every play behind me."
Gill settled in after a 59-minute rain delay that followed a shaky top of the first inning. He yielded a walk and single before inducing an inning-ending line-drive double play to second base.
"I was shaking and hot. I felt terrible," Gill said. "After the rain delay, I zoned in and found my velocity."
Rocori (22-5) scored the only run Gill needed in the bottom of the second inning on junior Matt Koshiol's two-out, infield single.
The Spartans took advantage of four errors by New Ulm (21-4) in the next inning to score two more runs with only one hit, by Schroeder, a senior, that drove in the first run. Pinch runner junior Ben Nelson scored all the way from first base on the play when the outfielder misplayed the ball.
Rocori added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
"Words can't describe how I feel," Gill said. "We've worked hard all year to get to this point, and here we are."