Sam Baier's efforts prolonged Springfield's baseball season. Carter Cook ensured a historic finish.
A year after losing the state championship game in eight innings, Springfield went a greater distance for redemption. The Tigers earned their first state title, defeating Parkers Prairie 4-2 in 11 innings, the second-longest championship game ever.
"It left a fire burning in our stomachs," Baier said of the Tigers' 2015 ending at Target Field, the scene of Monday's victory. "We never forgot the feeling of that loss here and I think that helped us today."
The score was tied 1-1 after five innings. Each team manufactured a run without recording a hit in the inning it was scored. Then Parkers Prairie, playing in its first state tournament, went ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth when Zach Gappa's single brought Hunter McDaniel across home plate.
In top of the seventh, No. 2 seed Springfield (21-6) had pinch runner Aaron Salonek on third base, but there were two outs. At bat, Baier readied himself for success. A deep breath. A bat tap on the outside of the plate. And visualization.
"I saw line drive and I hit a line drive," said Baier, whose double drove in Salonek for a 2-2 tie that led to bonus baseball.
Springfield went ahead to stay in the 11th inning. Joe Pieschel led off with a single and stole second base. Two batters later, Cook's single sent Pieschel home.
"I was just thinking, 'Keep it down. Make sure that ball hits the ground,' " said Cook, whose pinch runner, Ben Runck, added an insurance run on Isaac Fink's double. "I knew we'd come back. We've done it before."
Parkers Prairie relief pitcher Matt Ferley, who took the loss for No. 1 seed Panthers (22-3), said, "We were feeling very confident that we would win, but they got a nice hit from probably their best player."
Baier, who relieved starter Branden Flock with one out in the top of the sixth, earned the victory. He scattered three hits and struck out five. He caught a pop fly to end the game.