St. Agnes senior Charlie Turch took in a Twins game at Target Field a few weeks back and marveled at the smooth dirt, manicured grass and spotless seats.
The Twins do a fine job of keeping their home park immaculate. But in truth, it doesn't take much to impress Aggies players.
There is no home baseball field for St. Agnes to use during the season. Instead, the team practices at a nearby playfield and rents fields for home games.
"It's really something to find chunks of glass in your infield and pick up garbage in the outfield," Turch said.
Because the gymnasium turns into a performance theater every year after April 1, the team is out of luck when it rains.
It's no wonder coach Mike Streitz elected to be the visiting team when the Aggies won the coin toss prior to their Class 1A championship game against Lac qui Parle Valley. St. Agnes feels most at home when it is away, and Target Field was a fine place to wrap it all up.
"This is like a magic carpet for our players," Streitz said. "We've dealt with a lot of adversity, but rather than sit there and complain about it, we knew we had to get over it. Anything else was just a dream for us, and this is a dream."
All three state championship games were shutouts, the first time this has happened since baseball moved to three classes in 2000. St. Agnes and Class 2A champion Holy Family each rolled through the entire state tournament without allowing a run.
"We expected to be good, but I don't know if we thought it could be this good," Holy Family pitcher Kasey Ralston said. "You think of keeping the runs low, but you never think shutouts."
In the 31 games played in this year's state tournament, 23 of the losing teams scored one run or less.
On a steamy day in which temperatures in the dugouts neared 100 degrees, Lac qui Parle Valley senior Brandon Bornhorst threw 141 pitches in the Eagles' loss.
He also hit the 140 mark in a loss to Marshall earlier in the year, but that came in an eight-inning game, was in fair weather and was hardly on a huge stage like the state finals.
"The arm's pretty sore," he said. "But I was going to finish the game no matter what. I wanted to keep my name up on that major league scoreboard."
Turch drew quite a bit of attention at the plate, going 3-for-4 to lead the Aggies in their victory. In the top of the seventh, he had all eyes on him at Target Field when he jogged out to the bullpen in center field and was temporarily locked out.
He stood next to the 411-foot marker for 25 seconds, unsure of his next move until the door jimmied open.
"You can only open it from the inside; I was thinking someone was going to have to run out and help," Turch said. "I guess that's one way to get the eyes. I'll take it."
Added Streitz: "Once he got in there, I was just hoping he'd be able to get out."
Mr. and Ms. winners
Rochester Century senior pitcher Mitch Brown, who was drafted by Cleveland earlier this month, was named Mr. Baseball for Minnesota. Gophers recruit Nikki Anderson of Brainerd was named Ms. Softball.
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