Benilde-St. Margaret's celebration washed right over Mankato West catcher Luke Johnson. (Cheryl A. Myers, SportsEngine)
Benilde-St. Margaret’s senior Sam Monk was looking for an opportunity to redeem himself Friday. Red Knights coach Andy Judkins wasn’t so sure he deserved one.
His catcher has struggled at the plate all season and was 0-for-2 Friday with two strikeouts. A pinch hitter took his at-bat in the fifth, but Monk returned behind the plate via the re-entry rule.
“I was honestly thinking of pulling him,” Judkins said. “Then he gave me the look like I got this.”
Monk crushed a game-winning single off the left field wall with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring Tomas Lee from first base and giving No. 4-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret’s a 4-3 victory over top-ranked Mankato West in the Class 3A baseball state championship game at Target Field. Each team was vying for the first state championship in its program history.
“That was the best ball I have hit this year,” Monk said. “I like inside fastballs, and that’s what I got and turned on it. It was crazy.”
Red Knights junior center fielder Easton Breyfogle had prevented Mankato West (25-2) from taking the lead in the top half of the inning. An Arizona signee, he made a diving catch on Luke Johnson’s liner to right-center field with the bases loaded and two outs.
“The sun was in front of me and right above my head,” Breyfogle said. “I never saw it, and took a step in. When I picked it up, I said to myself, ‘Oh shoot! I’m going to miss it.’ I had to dive if I was going to catch it.”
The Scarlets, who were 6-0 in one-run games, overcame a three-run deficit, tying it in the sixth when Louis Magers scored after singling up the middle, advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt and an error on the play and getting home on a passed ball.
The Red Knights scored three runs early, with Dan Porisch in the middle of it. He scored in the second after beating out a slow roller to short, then drove in two runs with a single in the third.
Owen Omdahl was the winning pitcher for the Red Knights (24-3) in relief of sophomore Caleb Koskie, the son of former Twins third baseman Corey. Koskie was outstanding in 6 1/3 innings, allowing three hits while striking out 12.
“Caleb pitched one heck of a game,” Judkins said. “There were a lot of ups and downs in this game, and we stuck with it.”
Breyfogle, who went 2-for-3, called the title the product of sustained effort.
“At the beginning of the year I don’t think anybody knew what kind of team we could have,” he said. “We worked our butts off to get where we are today.”