Lakeville North Baseball a Hit Away From the Semifinals
The St. Michael-Albertville Knights defeated the Lakeville North Panthers 3-2 today to advance to tomorrow's semifinals in the MSHSL Class AAAA State High School Baseball Tournament. Lakeville North outhit St. Michael-Albertville 8-3 but it's the most runs that wins in baseball. A error and game ending double play proved to be the difference.
The first inning contained most of the offense for the game. The Strib Metro Player of the Year Nick Juaire of Lakeville North started the game with a single. Following a strikeout junior shortstop Gavin Baker hit a single putting the Panthers in business with runners at first and second with one out. Number four hitter senior Zach Breeden hit what looked to be a perfect double play ball to second base but there was an error filling the bases. Knights junior left handed pitcher Will Anderson struck out the next batter.
With the bases loaded Anderson hit senior Braden Walsh to score Juaire. Panther pitcher Nathaniel Peterson (also named to the Strib All-Metro First Team) was walked to score Baker before a grounder ended the inning.
I remember saying Lakeville North Head Coach Tony Market was probably pretty comfortable at that point with his ace on the hill and a two run lead but Peterson threw a 37 pitch inning with 20 strikes. Senior center fielder Alex Wilde started the bottom of the first with a single. Sophomore third baseman Boston Merila singled to left and sophomore catcher Cody Kelly was walked to load the bases with nobody out. Senior Paxton Thompson hit an infield single scoring Wilde. The next batter hit a fly ball to left field and the Knights elected not to send Merila from third. Sophomore left fielder Luc Laylin hit another fly ball to left and this time Merila was sent and easily scored to tie the game. The inning ended with Peterson's first and only strikeout of the game.
Peterson came into the game with 87 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched. The Knights had a team batting average of .381 and Lakeville North had a team batting average of .361.
Peterson settled down after that first inning. From the second inning through the fifth there were no more threats from St. Michael-Albertville to score. Twelve straight batters were retired. Meanwhile the Panthers had their chances but couldn't get the timely hit.
In the third inning Breeden led off with a single and was picked off first base when a batter couldn't get a bunt down. There were two hits in the inning and no runs scored.
In the fourth inning the Panthers Juaire was walked on four pitches after two outs. Junior second baseman Patrick Timmer hit a single to place runners at first and second but a ground out ended the inning. The Panthers had a one out single in the sixth and couldn't add any other hits.
In the bottom of the sixth inning Peterson's string of retiring batters came to an end with a four pitch walk of Knights sophomore Cody Kelly to start the inning. Kelly is a athletic catcher who came into the game with a .519 batting average. Thompson laid down a nice bunt about halfway between home and the mound . Juaire called off the pitcher and threw to first to get the out but Kelly never stopped running on the play and went to third. Nobody covered third base and the ball was thrown there anyway going down the third baseline and Kelly scored what proved to be the winning run on the error.
In the top of the seventh inning with one out Baker collected a single, Breeden had a single and Baker went to third base on the hit placing runners at the corners with one out. Denk hit a ball to second that looked like it could be a game ending double play but the speedy center fielder beat the relay throw on a head first slide. On the play Baker scored what appeared to be the tying run and was jumping in jubilation, but St. Michael-Albertville started celebrating a win and the Lakevile North players were stunned. My eyes did not deceive me. Denk was safe at first base but one of the base umpires called interference on the slide at second resulting in the game ending double play.
After the game Head Coach Tony Market said he was watching Denk slide safely into first and Baker score what appeared to be the tying run so he never really saw the slide at second.
The Panthers fell to 16-8 with the loss and the Knights improved to 22-4 and will play top seed Minnetonka in the semifinals Friday at Noon at CHS Field.
The Skippers trailed most of the game against Eastview before winning 3-2 in walk off fashion before the Lakeville North contest.
That means it will be a all South Suburban Conference consolation game at 10:00 a.m. Friday in Hopkins. Both teams suffering heartbreaking quarterfinal round losses and being just a timely hit away from playing in the winner's bracket.
KDHL will not be broadcasting the morning game.