Stillwater’s Jon Koehn hit a looping liner to center field in the bottom of the eighth inning. On his way to first base, he was downtrodden.
"When I hit the ball, I thought, 'I just flew out. We're going to go to the next inning,'" the second baseman said. "Then I saw it land. Then I saw the centerfielder bobble it.
"Next thing I knew, my teammates were dogpiling, and I was just standing on first base. I didn't know what happened."
Here's what happened: Teammate Alex Ritzer was running on the pitch Koehn lined to center, so he raced to third when the ball dropped in center. And when Woodbury's centerfielder mishandled the ball, Ritzer scored.
Ritzer's run gave Stillwater a 3-2 victory over Woodbury (20-6) in eight innings in the Class 4A, Section 4 championship game at CHS Field in St. Paul on Tuesday.
The victory means the Ponies, No. 23 in the USA Today Super 25 national rankings, have earned the right to defend their Class 4A state title.
Entering the bottom of the seventh inning, it appeared as if Suburban East Conference rival Woodbury, which had dealt Stillwater (22-2) one of its two regular-season losses this season, would force a second game to determine the section title. Up to that point, the Royals, No. 3 in the Star Tribune Class 4A metro rankings, had made fewer errors in the pitchers’ duel between Woodbury’s Adam Mazur and Stillwater's Drew Gilbert.
Stillwater rallied to claim its second consecutive Class 4A, Section 4 championship with a 3-2 victory over Woodbury in eight innings at CHS Field in St. Paul on Tuesday afternoon.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the seventh, the Ponies, who won last year’s Class 4A state title, plated two runs to force extra innings. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Stillwater (22-2) scored the game-winning run when a two-out single was misplayed in centerfield.
The late rally capped what had been a pitching duel between Stillwater’s Drew Gilbert and Adam Mazur of Woodbury. Gilbert allowed one hit and five walks while fanning 14 in eight innings. Mazur, meanwhile, surrendered five hits, one walk and collected 11 whiffs in 7 2/3 innings.
Woodbury (20-6) scored its first run in the top of the fourth. Mazur walked, then raced to third when Gilbert threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt. Mazur then scored on a single by Rodney Erickson.
The Royals, ranked No. 3 in the Star Tribune’s Class 4A metro rankings, added another unearned run in the sixth when Brock Rinehart, who was on second base, and Mazur, on first base, executed a double-steal, with Rinehart coming home after the throw to third sailed into left field.
No. 1-4A Stillwater, which is also No. 23 in USA Today’s Super 25 national rankings, tied it 2-2 in the seventh with back-to-back doubles by Will Frisch and Kade Peloquin. That set the stage for the game-winning rally in the eighth, which began when Alex Ritzer singled with two outs and no one on. Ritzer was running when Jon Koehn lined a single to center, and the ball bounced away from the centerfielder to allow Ritzer to score the winning run.
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