The awards were presented, the rain-soaked fans had left the Target Field seats, but the Maple Grove Senior High baseball team had not yet vacated their dugout.
The hugs, tears and faces full of disbelief hadn’t quite finished.
The Crimson watched its five-run lead vanish in Burnsville’s final at-bat Wednesday in the Class AAA state championship game. When it was over, the Blaze left with a 6-5 victory and a state championship.
Maple Grove left not quite sure how to feel.
“Mostly it’s just shock,” junior Logan Hershey said. “Bottom of the seventh we’re up 5-0, and all of a sudden it’s 6-5 and we’re watching them celebrate. It’s tough. I love these guys. We had a heck of a year, and we just couldn’t get it done when it mattered.”
The Crimson (26-2) looked well on its way to the school’s first championship after an offensive outburst in the fifth.
Maple Grove broke a scoreless tie thanks to three extra-base hits in the frame. Alex Naasz led off with a double, Hershey hit a two-run triple and Kark Sorenson laced an RBI double to highlight a five-run frame.
The runs chased Burnsville pitcher Quinn Johnson from the game. Johnson, who pitched a two-hit shutout in his quarterfinal game against Bemidji, left after 4 2/3 innings and was charged with five runs on six hits.
Meanwhile, Maple Grove pitcher Mitchell Bauer was cruising. Through six innings, he allowed three hits and no runs and looked poised to finish with a shutout victory.
But Burnsville, which lost 7-5 in the state title game a year ago, wouldn’t go without a fight.
The Blaze (24-3) opened up the seventh with a Bo Hellquist single. After RBI hits by Tyler Hill, Dan Motl and Matt Stemper, the lead was suddenly cut to 5-3.
After an intentional walk loaded the bases, a hit batter forced in a run and placed the game-winning run on second.
Hellquist, who led off the inning, laced the game-winning, two-run single that gave Burnsville the win.
“You tell them not to hopefully hang their heads,” Crimson coach Darby Carlson said. “They had a great season, won the conference and won the section. They played competitive ball in the final, and you can’t ask for anything more.”
Carlson said what he’ll remember most about the season is the memories and the relationships formed among the teammates.
He said Maple Grove’s perfect regular season doesn’t happen often, and that they should be proud of their accomplishments.
Wednesday’s loss was tough, but it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the Crimson made it to within three outs of the state championship.
“There is a ton of stuff to be proud of,” Carlson said. “While it’s disappointing, there’s other people around the world that have it a lot tougher.”
Hershey said he’ll never forget this team’s run.
“I’ll take away the memories with these guys,” Hershey said. “I love these guys—(Alex) Naasz and Karl (Sorensen). I just can’t say enough about these guys.”
Maple Grove 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 — 5 7 0
Burnsville 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 — 6 8 2
Hitting leaders — Logan Hershey 2-4, 1R, 2RBI; Roman Collins 1-4, 1R, 1RBI; Alex Naasz 2-3, 1R; Shay Torgerson 1-3; Tanner Ruprecht 0-2, 1R
Pitching lines — Mitchell Bauer 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 5 K; Jacob Schwager (L) 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
CLASS AAA ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Maple Grove - Jacob Schwager - pitcher
Maple Grove - Mitchell Bauer - pitcher
Maple Grove - Roman Collins - infielder
Maple Grove - Brady Jacobs - infielder/outfielder
Burnsville - Andy Lieser - outfielder
Burnsville - Tyler Hill, Jr. - outfielder
Burnsville - Quinn Johnson - pitcher
Burnsville - Bo Hellquist - pitcher
Bloomington Kennedy - Zach Horn - catcher
Eden Prairie - Adam Bray - pitcher/infielder
Rochester Century - Mitchell Brown - pitcher/infielder
Stillwater Area - Pad Getchell - otufielder