Forty-five pitches, a couple of errors and loaded bases in the first inning of the Class 3A, Section 4 championship baseball game weren’t ideal circumstances for Mounds View pitcher Max Knutson.

Then again, nothing about the 2013 high school baseball season was ideal, but Knutson made it special. He responded the same way with a state tournament berth on the line. The lefthander worked out of the jam, keeping Cretin-Derham Hall from scoring, and settled in for 8⅓ innings in the Mustangs’ 3-2 extra-inning victory.

“That kind of set the tone of the rest of the game,” Knutson said.

The senior’s ability to endure while performing at a high level set the tone for Mounds View’s state tournament-bound season and figured prominently in Knutson’s selection, along with Coon Rapids pitcher Logan Shore, as the Star Tribune’s 2013 Metro Co-Players of the Year.

(To read about Logan Shore, click here.)

In a weather-shortened season marked by up to eight games in some weeks, it became normal for Knutson to make two starts within a five-day period and complete the game. In early May, he threw 13⅔ innings and 210 pitches. During last week’s section tournament, he threw 15⅓ innings and 253 pitches. Through it all, on little rest, he compiled a 4-1 record, 61 strikeouts and a 0.73 ERA.

“Max has the ability to throw a complete game every time he’s on the mound,” Mustangs coach Jon Nuss said. “All of his hard work in the offseason has helped him to build up his arm so that he doesn’t lose velocity late in the game.”

Knutson was clocked hitting 95 miles per hour early in the season. His long outings and strong arm put him high on Major League Baseball draft lists, but he passed on the chance at big money to first play college baseball at Nebraska.

At a recent photo session at Coon Rapids High School, Knutson and Shore, who also plans to play college ball, admitted to living up to their hype, but they were diplomatic on the question of who was better.

“Can’t compare,” Shore said.

Knutson’s response: “I’m a lefty, he’s a righty.”

What they did agree on was wanting to face each other in the state tournament. The bracket is not in their favor. Should both teams win Thursday, when both pitchers are scheduled to start, the squads would play Friday.

If for some reason a Shore-vs.-Knutson matchup were to happen, Knutson said that would be the real state championship game.