For the third time since 2008, the Coon Rapids High School baseball team won its section tournament.
The latest came June 5 when the Cardinals downed Maple Grove for a fourth time this spring 8-1 in the Section 5AAA Championship game at Midway Stadium in St. Paul.
Coon Rapids won both regular-season meetings 6-2 and 5-0 before meeting in the championship quarterfinals May 24 but needed a second win against the Crimson in sections to break through to state.
“We haven’t had a real good track record against them for the last several years,” Cardinals coach Jerry Coe said who admitted he was nervous to face them a fourth time this spring. “Every time I think about facing them it’s hard to beat a team twice, three times and four times. I was nervous about this.”
Cardinals standout pitcher Logan Shore held the Crimson to one hit in a 6-0 complete game shutout in the previous section meeting.
“It’s a great feeling with a great group of guys,” Shore said about returning to state for the first time since his freshman season, 2010.
As he has done throughout sections, Shore scattered two hits and gave up one unearned run across seven innings of work. He struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter the day before he’s expected to be selected in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft.
“The draft is really uncertain,” Shore said. “And you don’t know what’s going to happen until that day so I’m not going to get wrapped up in something I don’t know the certainty of. This team is one of the best I’ve been on chemistrywise but that overruled thinking about anything that’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Shore also got it done with the bat going 2-for-3 including a first-inning blast to the wall as he turned on a fastball to right center field, scoring lead-off batter Tyler Kelm, who drew his first of three walks and scored three times on the afternoon.
Tony Boxwell followed Kelm with a botched ground-out attempt at second base. After Shore’s hit, senior catcher Anthony Mrosla sacrificed Boxwell home to make it 2-0 in the opening inning. Mrosla also went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and Boxwell picked up a pair of RBIs, scored two runs and collected a double.
Mrsola, Coon Rapids’ starting catcher said about the strong start: “When you get two runs off a team’s ace and then you’ve got a kid like that throwing on the mound for you, that pretty much puts them on the ground.”
Taking the early lead took away Maple Grove’s ability to play small ball – bunting, delayed steals and sac flies to generate runs. “They get ahead, they’re tough to beat so I was really happy we jumped out to the 2-0 lead,” Coe said.
The Cardinals’ discipline at the plate generated seven walks, four strikeouts and six hits, chasing senior left-hander pitcher Tyler Field from the game after only 2.1 innings of work. He surrendered three earned runs on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts before the bullpen took over.
Coe said the batters worked on taking outside pitches to the opposite field to exploite how Field pitched against them 11 days eariler in addition to an earlier win.
Coe added that batting continues to be the weakest link for the Cardinals out of the three areas of the game – pitching, fielding or batting.
“But I think we’re coming. We’ve faced some decent pitching in this section but our averages are coming up a little bit,” Coe said.
Back in 2008 and 2010, Coon Rapids wasn’t expected to reach state. Being ranked No. 2 this spring, “It puts a lot more pressure on you being one-or-two,” Coe added. “I think, not to brag, but that’s been our tradition in our area for awhile that we’ve been a pretty good program for awhile and people shoot for us.”
With the pressure of being among the top-programs mentioned in the state, Coe has had the confidence to send any of the four main pitchers to the mound all season including Jake Bruner, Grant Farley and Nick Hanzlik for a combined 8-1 record.