Of myriad ways to win a baseball game, Minnetonka's 7-6 walk-off victory over St. Michael-Albertville was one of the least likely.
The Skippers fell behind 5-0 in the second inning Friday at CHS Field, then spent the rest of the game piecing together pitching, defense and offense. They finally rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in improbable fashion.
In between there were home runs, unearned runs, bunts and bloops, five errors by St. Michael-Albertville and five pitchers for Minnetonka.
The game-winning runs came courtesy of a push bunt by Cameron Smrekar, who nudged the ball into an undefended gap in the infield to score Nick Thimsen.
"We work on that in practice every day," Smrekar said of his unusual bunt. "It's actually the third time we've used it this year."
Three batters later, Andy Andresen, one of the heroes of Thursday's victory over Eastview, took a bases-loaded walk to force in the winning run.
Strange ending, but they weren't even Minnetonka's most unusual runs. Those came in the fourth, when Thimsen struck out on a pitch in the dirt with two on and two outs. He raced to first and the throw sailed into right field.
Two runs scored on what should have been the last out of the inning.
"That's how we've played all year," said junior Mitch Klass, whose home run in the bottom the second gave the Skippers a jump-start. "We know our team can battle back. We all have that chemistry and we all play together."
The Skippers players may not have doubted, but head coach Paul Twenge had his concerns.
"Oh gosh, yes, there was doubt," Twenge said. "I just told them you've got to play every inning, one at a time. We have a quote — it's not my quote — 'Seven one-inning games.' We've been doing that all year long."
Stillwater 4, Blaine 3: One day after using his arm to pitch Stillwater to victory, Drew Gilbert used his glove and his bat to help the Ponies to another one.
Gilbert, a fleet junior, robbed Blaine of extra-base hits three times — two of them on consecutive plays — and went 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored.
"Just trying to make any play I can for the team," Gilbert said.
Stillwater starter Will Frisch, a rocket-armed junior pitcher, struggled and left the game after 4⅔ innings, nine walks and a shade more than the 115-pitch limit allowed. Blaine led 2-0 at that point, and momentum was hanging around the Bengals dugout.
But Cody Venske, who had come on in relief of Frisch, led off the top of the sixth with a double. Two batters later, Gilbert tripled him home. Frisch hit a sacrifice fly on the next at-bat, and suddenly the game was tied.
In the bottom of the inning, Gilbert flashed his glove work, chasing down a long fly and making an over-the-shoulder catch, followed by a diving catch on the next play.
"Nobody else makes those plays," said Venske, who picked up the victory pitching 2⅓ innings of relief.
Momentum had switched sides.
Stillwater (23-3) scored two runs in the top of the seventh on two hits, two Blaine errors, a wild pitch and some heads-up baserunning to take its first lead. Blaine (22-4) got a run back in the bottom of the seventh, but Venske got a called third strike with the bases loaded to end the game.
"These guys have been in so many tight games, they know something good is going to happen," said Stillwater coach Mike Parker of his team's 19th consecutive victory. "They know something will break."