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Burnsville gets to championship game again

By Amelia Rayno, Star Tribune, 06/17/11, 2:45PM CDT


The Blaze hold on to win a close one over Century

Rochester Century's Mitchell Brown wasn't quick enough for the tag at second as Burnsville's Matt Stemper slid in safely. Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

The Burnsville baseball team set a mental timer one year ago for a very important appointment. On Friday, the buzzer went off.

One season after narrowly falling to Eden Prairie in the state championship game, the Blaze has made it back by beating hot Rochester Century 6-4 in the Class 3A semifinals at Midway Stadium in St. Paul.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Blaze right fielder Andy Lieser, who had two hits and three RBI on the day. “After last year, all the upperclassmen got together … we’ve been playing with a chip on our shoulder.”

Until the sixth, they were also playing with a little bit of anxiety. Clinging to a one-run lead after taking a 4-3 lead on a three-run second inning, Burnsville had opportunities to create distance but muffed them. In the fifth, Justin Threkeld and Tyler Hanson cracked consecutive drives to put runners on second and third, but the next two batters grounded weakly and flied out, ending the threat.

“As you get older and the more times you see this, you’re eating up inside, but you never want to let the kids see it,” Blaze coach Mick Scholl said. “But I’ve seen this to know: we can come back, we can maintain this.”

And they did, getting a critical RBI from Matt Stemper in the sixth to put them up by two and seemingly take the wind out of the Panthers, who went down 1-2-3 in a stellar defensive seventh inning that featured diving catches by Lieser and Stemper at short.

“Wow,” Scholl said. “It just comes back to — you don’t expect it — but these guys believe it.”


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