Baseball: New Life unable to break Minnehaha's section stranglehold
ROSEVILLE — Before the first pitch of the 2018 season, New Life Academy head coach Dave Darr knew the team's season hinged on beating Minnehaha Academy.
And for the third straight year, the Eagles and Redhawks met with the Section 4AA championship on the line, with New Life needing to win two-straight to go to state for the first time since 2015.
"Scotty (Glenn, Minnehaha's coach) and I said afterwards, 'See you next year at this time,'" Darr said.
Ultimately, the Redhawks won their third straight section title over the Eagles with a 9-1 victory at Northwestern University.
The Eagles' lone run came in the top of the first inning as Minnehaha pitcher Bennett Theisen struggled to find the strike zone. After drawing a walk and reaching second base on a Riley Grohn single, Colin Quirk reached home after Theisen threw two straight wild pitches.
"He threw me three straight balls so I wasn't going to swing at the next one," Quirk said. "Around the third (inning), he threw strikes."
Quirk continued, "We can't hope on him throwing wild the whole game."
After a treacherous first, Theisen gave up just two more hits the rest of the way while striking out 10 with four walks. With a strong defense behind him, no New Life runner got past first base after the first inning.
"In the first, it would have been nice to get a crooked number up there but we were unable to," Darr said. "We wanted to score the first runs and really put them behind the eight-ball. But you have to tip your cap to (Theisen). He went on to strike out two with the bases loaded."
Minnehaha put up two runs in the bottom of the first to erase the early deficit, thanks to a throwing error and a bases-loaded walk from Roddy MacDonald.
From the seventh spot, MacDonald ended up being the Redhawks' most dangerous hitter, going 2-for-2 with four RBI and a run scored.
Minnehaha also thrived in the clutch, scoring six of its nine runs with two outs.
Grohn, Quirk and Andrew Kroohn each had singles to account for the Eagles' three hits. Taking the hill for New Life was Cooper Falteisek, who went four innings, giving up four runs, eight hits and eight walks with six strikeouts.
"Our guys weren't afraid of the challenge after being down by five and winning on Tuesday," Darr said. "The fact is we had to come through the loser's bracket and couldn't throw Zach (Thor) or Cooper (Amon) and they were well rested."
The defending state champion Redhawks will open state on Thursday, June 14 at Putz Field in St. Cloud.
New Life Academy closes out the year at 16-6 overall and lose two seniors in Thor and Mark Morrison.
In fact, both the Eagles and Redhawks are young squads, which will make for a likely section showdown for a fourth straight year.
"We'll most likely be back here," Quirk said. "We're all juniors and they're all juniors."
Darr added, "Our junior class really worked hard and we'll continue to improve. Everyone is going to be better."