Mounds View will get a chance to defend its Class 3A title.
Ryan Plasencia’s walk-off single propelled the Mustangs past Lakeville North 2-1 in Friday afternoon’s Class 3A state semifinals at Midway Stadium in St. Paul.
Mounds View starting pitcher Kellen Rholl allowed only three hits, walked one and struck out none in the complete-game victory. The defense was just as impressive, handling all 21 outs in the field without an error.
The Mustangs will face Eden Prairie in the rescheduled championship game Monday night at Target Field.
“We can trust everyone on the field. Everyone can make plays. We haven’t had a problem with errors all year,” said second baseman Plasencia after saving a run in the fifth inning by tracking down a pop-up in shallow right field.
Mounds View capitalized on the well-executed game’s only error when a high throw to first base allowed Ethan Madsen to score in the third inning.
Lakeville North struggled to adjust to Rholl’s throwing motion. The lefthander drops down in his delivery to throw mostly sidearm. Panthers’ starter Nick Dorfman was just as effective, giving up just four hits in 6⅓ innings, but got into trouble in the seventh after surrendering a leadoff single.
The two teams combined for only seven hits, with two of the Mustangs’ four coming in the bottom of the seventh. Plasencia’s walk-off single to right field scored Wyatt Meyer from second base. Tucker Gran was 2-for-2 at the plate on the slow offensive day.
“Timely hitting like that is why we’ve won the last 14 games,” Rholl said. “We went out and played defense and had timely hitting and won the game.”
Lakeville North tied the score 1-1 in the sixth inning. Kyle Sticha’s leadoff double was followed by a sacrifice bunt by Drew Stewart and a sacrifice fly by AJ Sayer.
“It was a pitchers’ duel all game and they put together the hits at the end,” Lakeville North junior shortstop Angelo Altavilla said. “[Rholl] had a different motion and mixed it up well. We’re not really used [to being shut down]. We pretty much hit the ball all season.”
The Mustangs’ pitching staff has produced back-to-back complete games. Henry Decaster had been scheduled to start the championship game at Target Field when it was still set for Saturday. But the threat of rain pushed the finale to Monday. Mounds View coach Mark Downey said he will consider starting fourth-round draft pick Sam Hentges on three days’ rest. However, with Decaster’s success this year, the team was excited to have him on the mound for a chance to repeat as state champions.
Eden Prairie 13, Lakeville South 3: Eden Prairie never gave Lakeville South a chance to build on its unexpected playoff run. The Eagles scored four runs in the second inning and continued to add on their lead for a 10-run victory in six innings.
The Cougars’ turnaround season ended with a 6-2 postseason after a 2-17 regular season.
“Our coach told us [Friday] morning we had to get on them or they’ll stick around. Most teams crumble under pressure,” said Eden Prairie right fielder Matthew Cheesman. “We haven’t let up all year, and it showed.”
Eden Prairie pounded out 15 hits and capitalized on six walks. The Eagles scored runs in four of the six innings, highlighted by a five-run sixth to complete the 10-run rule. Cheesman led the offensive outburst going 3-for-3, with three runs scored and four RBI. Ryan Zimmerman, Jack Sullivan, and Michael Parrish each had two RBI. Jeff Athey contributed three hits and scored two runs.
Eagles starting pitcher Dan Loats pitched comfortably with a lead. He scattered nine hits, allowed two earned runs, struck out seven and walked one.
Cory Reiter and Luke Peiper each had two hits for Lakeville South.
“[The quarterfinals] showed us that Lakeville South wasn’t a joke to be messed with. They might not have had that great of regular season, but we had to take them seriously.”
The Eagles will attempt to dethrone defending state champion Mounds View on Monday night. The two programs boast team ERAs below 2.00 and have Division 1-caliber aces who should be well rested for the reschedule championship. Eden Prairie last won the state title in 2010.