Maple Grove players sat in the Target Field infield in disbelief as Burnsville players celebrated the Class 3A championship after a seventh-inning rally. Marlin Levison, Star Tribune
From all angles, it looked like it would be a terrible case of déjà vu. One year after losing to Eden Prairie in the same game — falling just short on a late-inning rally — Burnsville’s players loudly stated they would not let that happen again.
Down 5-0 with one out in the seventh, the Blaze came alive and scraped together five hits to stage a seemingly impossible six-run rally and set up a walk-off single from Bo Hellquist for the 6-5 victory in the Class 3A championship — the first in school history for Burnsville — on Wednesday night at Target Field.
In some ways, the fire started with a weak popup in the fourth inning. Entrenched in a pitchers’ duel between Burnsville’s Quinn Johnson and Maple Grove’s Mitch Bauer — with each striking out four and holding the offenses scoreless through four — Hellquist popped up to the shortstop, and half-heartedly trotted to first base.
“I chewed his butt out — that’s not how we do it,” Burnsville coach Mick Scholl said. “And I told him if he wants to hit again, he has to show me what he’s done the whole year.”
Hellquist’s response probably qualifies.
After the Crimson went ahead with a five-run explosion in the fifth, the Blaze went down 1-2-3 in the sixth. That set up Hellquist to lead off the seventh with a single, and after Bauer was able to get one out, the Blaze rally continued: Tyler Hill doubled in a run, then Dan Motl successfully bunted and Hill came home when Maple Grove first baseman Roman Collins turned his back after the play.
“I think [that] was the turning point,” Scholl said. “That’s when the belief really started to happen. Our kids — you could see the excitement on the bench, the crowd got into it, and that puts a lot of pressure on [Maple Grove].”
With the pressure mounting on Bauer and the Maple Grove defense, the Blaze pounced. The Crimson changed pitchers, but Jacob Schwager could not stop the carnage, getting one out sandwiched between a hit, a walk and a hit batter. Cue Hellquist’s second at-bat of the inning.
“There were a lot of jitters going through my body, knowing that the game rested on my shoulders and if I got out, we lose. But if I got a base hit, everybody was going to jump on me.”
With the bases loaded, he ripped one past the diving first baseman and into right field, sending two men home for the walk-off victory and sending his team — as he so coyly predicted — jumping on him on a pile on the field.
“I think I jumped higher than I’ve ever jumped in my life,” said Scholl, who swears he wasn’t surprised by the shocking rally, calling it “our motto all year.”
In the other dugout, a quiet Maple Grove team was left to wonder where an apparent title instead turned into their second loss of the season.
“After you get a few runs in the fifth, you’re trying to breathe a little easier but you’ve still got to get outs. And with baseball, unlike other sports, the clock doesn’t run out,” Crimson coach Darby Carlson said. “You’ve got to get them all.”