As a senior-dominated team, Mahtomedi only had one thing on its mind: a state championship.
The Zephyrs' 14 seniors, half of whom are starters, played a big role in bringing the school its first baseball state championship Saturday with a 5-1 victory over Rocori in the Class 3A finals at Target Field. It was Mahtomedi's fifth consecutive state tournament appearance.
"It's been a long time coming," said Mahtomedi senior Austin Jerylo, the winning pitcher. "Our goal with this group has always been to win a state championship."
The senior group remembers 2016 all too well. Mahtomedi was upset by Henry Sibley 8-4 in the championship game. It also dropped the first game in the state tournament a year ago. The seniors wanted to make amends.
"This is especially nice," Mahtomedi senior catcher said Charlie Bartholomew, a starter on the 2016 squad. "It feels like redemption."
Jerylo was superb at keeping the Rocori hitters off balance. After a double by junior Brady Klehr in the first inning, Jerylo retired the next 13 hitters in order. He finished with a six-hitter, striking out four and walking none.
His defense helped him out after the streak was stopped in the top of the fifth inning. Spartans sophomore Jack Steil doubled over the head of left fielder Leo Bustos after Reed Ruegemer had singled with two outs. Pinch-runner senior Eli Emerson tried to score, but the Zephyrs' relay from Bustos to senior shortstop Carter Shook to Bartholomew got the out at home plate to preserve a one-run lead.
"We practice double-cuts like that every day in practice," Bartholomew said. "Our coach [Rob Garry] said it would win us a game."
Mahtomedi (20-4) got two runs in the bottom half of the frame. Senior Sam Lapadat drove in the first run with a triple and scored on senior pinch-hitter Sam Jenson's sacrifice fly.
Rocori (22-6) broke up Jerylo's shutout bid in the sixth on starting pitcher Mason Primus' sacrifice fly.
Mahtomedi countered with two more runs in the bottom half of the frame on a bases-loaded fielder's choice by Bustos and Jerylo's run-scoring single. Jerylo also started the two-run fifth with a single.
The Zephyrs took a 1-0 lead in the second when senior Henry Laue doubled and later scored on a wild pitch.
"We came back with one intention, win a state championship," Jerylo said. "Anything but that would have been a failure."