Hours before Minnehaha Academy defeated Pierz 6-4 in the Class 2A baseball state title game, Bennett Theisen walked onto Target Field and told teammate Noah Dehne how much more comfortable he felt for this championship game.
A year ago, when they were both Redhawks freshmen, Theisen didn't get in the championship game against Belle Plaine. Dehne was hitless in the team's 5-1 victory.
Things were far different Monday, when the two friends helped lead their team to the championship.
"I knew something was on our side," said Dehne, who had two hits and drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh.
His single to right-center field scored Simon Huyck from second to give Minnehaha a 5-4 lead. Alex Evenson later doubled to score Dehne.
Minnehaha Academy (26-2) jumped to a 4-0 lead, scoring two runs each in the second and third innings. Each burst include a triple. The first, by John Goth, knocked in the Redhawks' first run, and he eventually scored. Dehne tripled in the third and later scored Minnehaha Academy's third run on an error.
Pierz (26-3) loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning. After starter Brock Brumley allowed a run and got one batter out, Theisen fielded a hard-hit chopper, stepped on third and threw to first for a double play that ended the inning.
"I've had harder balls hit toward me," Theisen said. "I was ready for it."
Theisen also was ready when he came on in relief of Brumley in the fifth inning with no outs and two runners in scoring position. Pierz's Luke Girtz singled off him to score the two runners, but that was all the Pioneers offense mustered against Theisen.
Of the nine outs the Minnehaha closer recorded, seven were strikeouts.
"We've had some bad innings," Redhawks coach Scott Glenn said. "We always find a way to answer back."