Rochester Century’s star righthander Mitchell Brown had already put together quite an impressive season coming into the opening round of the state tournament, strapping the Panthers on his back all year and going 10-1 with a 0.93 ERA.
Thursday, he added another gold star to his resume, looking absolutely unhittable in his complete-game, two-hit performance as he and Century overwhelmed defending champion and favored Eden Prairie, 3-0 at Midway Stadium.
“There’s a lot of people that thought we were underdogs and we probably were, but our coach has been telling us all week long … we’ve got a chance to beat anybody,” said Brown, who had ten strikeouts.
From the start, it looked to be a duel from the mound, with both Brown and Eden Prairie starter Adam Bray dominating the offenses. But the Panthers ended the stalemate and took a 2-0 lead in the fourth, thanks to a couple of well-placed balls to the left side of the infield that put two on. That set up Brown’s run-scoring line drive and Nick Merge’s sacrifice bunt.
“I thought it would fire our guys up, but there wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm at the beginning of the game,” Eagles coach Mike Halloran said of facing Brown. “To make a run at this, you’ve got to be hungry at the first pitch.”
Instead, Eden Prairie looked smothered. Brown faced just three batters in each of the final five innings, helped out by a double play and a fine throw by left fielder Josh Denison when Ryan Maenke tried to stretch a single – the second of the Eagles’ two hits of the game – into a double.
Century’s Calvin Bjerke sealed the deal in the seventh, with a solo home run for insurance, but the Panthers wouldn’t need it – Brown, who headed into the inning with a pitch count at 97, finished what he started, inducing three fly balls to end the game and send Century to the semifinals.
“He could smell it, so he went and got it,” coach Keith Kangas said.