Mounds View lefty Sam Hentges, who made just his second start of the season, sent his team into the title game against Rocori at Target Field on Monday. (Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune photo)
Mounds View and Coon Rapids were left to rely on their supporting pitching staffs for a berth in the state championship. Mounds View proved to have the deeper rotation. The Mustangs only needed junior lefthanded pitcher Sam Hentges to contain Coon Rapids in a 9-4 Class 3A semifinal victory at Midway Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Aces and co-Metro Players of the year Logan Shore and Max Knutson were unavailable to face off after throwing complete-game victories in Thursday quarterfinals.
Hentges made just his second start of the season and completed his second game. He gave up three earned runs, struck out four and allowed seven hits.
“I feel like we have a lot of good pitchers. I just trusted in my defense 100 percent, and we had a lot of offense,” Hentges said. “There was pressure at points, but we always had a lead. That’s the biggest game I’ve pitched in my life.”
Knutson, who threw a complete game Thursday, watched his junior teammate take the mound with a trip Monday to Target Field on the line. The lefthanders shared a few words before and during the game, but Knutson said he just let Hentges “do his thing.”
The space worked well for Hentges, who was pegged as the Mustangs’ No. 3 starting pitcher until No. 2 starter Ethan Decaster injured his arm in the section title game.
Knutson warmed up in the bullpen between the sixth and seventh innings. His services weren’t needed, though. The Mustangs scored five runs in the seventh, a rally started when Hentges drove in the first run with the bases loaded.
Coon Rapids (18-4) scored runs in each of the final three innings and entered the final inning trailing 4-3. The Mustangs responded by hitting through the lineup in the top of the seventh. Alec Abercrombie was 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Nate Douvier was 2-for-4 with two RBI.
The Cardinals’ errant play contributed to their defeat. They made four errors and gave up four unearned runs. Coon Rapids started pitcher Jake Bruner, who was relieved by Nick Hanzlik in the fifth.
Shore, who was drafted by the Twins and threw a no-hitter on Thursday, said he’d never seen his team, including himself, so inconsistent on defense. His coach, Jerry Coe, said timely hitting was the difference in the first half. The Cardinals left a runner in scoring position in each of the first four innings.
“Obviously, I didn’t play the best I could have to help the team out,” said Shore, who played first and third base. “If we don’t boot it around, it’s a different game. “
Rocori 4, Minnetonka 1: Minnetonka did more for Rocori than it did for itself. The Skippers had five errors and committed other miscues that helped the Spartans to a 4-1 victory.
Rocori (18-8) had just two hits but took advantage of every opportunity Minnetonka (22-7) gave it, scoring in the first and fifth innings off errors.
“I thought I had some of my best stuff I’ve had all year. But we couldn’t get anything done in the field,” Skippers starting pitcher Max Fahlsing said. “We weren’t ready. We were just going way too fast.”
The game started with a misplayed ground ball by Minnetonka’s shortstop, followed by an error and wild pitch by Fahlsing. The mishaps led to two runs for Rocori. Fahlsing responded by striking out the side and surviving through the next three innings before another string of errors haunted him.
Mac Mueller and Reed Pfannenstein had the Spartans’ only two hits, but both could have been ruled errors. “It’s all about who executes,’’ Pfannenstein said.
Rocori starter Jake Hennen, who struck out five and gave up only four hits, said, “We’ll take them any way we can get them.”