State baseball: Cardinals bats, errors account for losses to end season

Riding the emotional high from a no-hitter in the Class AAA state opener, Coon Rapids (18-5) fell flat the next day dropping two games on the same Midway Stadium field to end what’s been a remarkable 2013 season.

Fourth-seeded Mounds View (19-6) upset the top-seeded Cardinals in the semifinals 9-4 to set up a third-place game against No. 2 seed Minnetonka.

The Skippers blanked Coon Rapids 6-0 in the third-place game three hours later in what was the Cardinals sixth game played at Midway Stadium.

Woes continue

Coon Rapids struggled hitting and fielding Friday, collecting six errors and bobbling the ball at least that many times to sustain rallies by Mounds View and Minnetonka.

“We picked a bad time to give a lot of outs,” Cardinals coach Jerry Coe said of the uncharacteristic play in the field after the semifinal loss. “They made the plays and we didn’t. I don’t have any excuses, we just didn’t play that well.”

Couple that with the Cardinals inability to string together hits and the result was 12 hits and four runs between the two games.

Credit Mustangs pitcher Sam Hentges for working out of trouble, stranding six batters through the first five innings. He gave up three earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks in the complete game win.

Coon Rapids found ways to get on base, but couldn’t sustain much after reaching with one or two outs.

Jake Bruner and Noah Fedje had base hits in the second inning, but two strikeouts ended the rally.

Alex Boxwell took a two-out walk in the third inning and made it to second on a passed ball, then took third base on a wild pitch before Anthony Mrosla grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning.

Fedje came up in the fourth inning and reached second base on an error with two outs. He stole third base before Cory Page ended the inning on a ground out to the pitcher.

Mustangs rally

Mounds View scored once in the second inning, but sustained rallies in a three-run, fifth inning and five-run, seventh inning to secure the spot in the Class AAA Championship game.

Mustangs lead-off batter Alec Abercrombie went 3-for-4 scoring twice and drove in two runs. He led off the third inning with an infield hit to Coon Rapids second baseman Jace Hegg.

The two RBIs came on a one-out double down the left field line to make it 3-0 in the fifth inning. Mounds View scored another run to take a 4-0 lead, ending Bruner’s day on the mound for the Cardinals with two outs in the inning. He gave up three earned runs on five hits, two walks and two strikeouts in his first pitching action since a win against Elk River on May 15.

Cardinals reliever Nick Hanzlik induced two pop-fly outs to stop the rally. He worked the final 2.2 innings allowing five runs, two earned, on three hits and three walks.

Coon Rapids tried to respond in the home-half of the fifth inning, starting with its own speedy lead-off man. Tyler Kelm continued his strong performance in the tournament with a lead-off single before Boxwell followed with a double. Kelm scored on Logan Shore’s ground out to the shortstop and Boxwell was driven home on a base hit through the right side of the infield by Anthony Mrosla to cut the lead to 4-2.

Hanzlik faced just four batters in the sixth inning before Coon Rapids made it a one-run game when Bruner scored on Page’s ground out to third base. Hegg walked, but was picked off first base to end the hopes of tying the game.

Those hopes were quickly dashed in the seventh inning when Mounds View’s Austin Smestad led off with a walk followed by Abercrombie’s bunt single. Mr. Baseball candidate Max Knutson drew an intentional walk to load the bases for Hentges, who singled to right field. The Mustangs sent nine batters to the plate, scoring five times on three hits.

Skippers roll

Playing again just two hours after such an emotional loss seemed to take its toll on Coon Rapids against Minnetonka.

The Cardinals scattered five hits across four Skippers pitchers and left four runners on base.

Kelm went 2-for-3 to lead Coon Rapids and Shore, Bruner and Tyler Wojciechowski each contributed a hit.

“It’s been our Achilles heal all season long,” Coe said about hitting. “I don’t know when the last time was that we strung three-four hits together. It’s not easy, but other teams do it so there is no reason why we couldn’t, too.”

Coe said the deeper into sections and state a team reaches the fewer walks, hit batters, passed balls, wild pitches or errors are available.

“You need to play well, pitch, run and play defense well,” he said. “And other than Logan’s effort we didn’t do any of those things.”

Pitcher Grant Farley worked the first 3.1 innings for the Cardinals. He gave up five runs on eight hits, one walk, four strikeouts and hit two batters.

Mitch Drazkowski, Page and Luke Jorgenson worked the final 2.2 innings, limiting the Skippers to one hit and one run.

Minnetonka’s Luke Pettersen and Jared Ridge each had two hits to help the Skippers finish the season with a 23-7 record.

Post-season honors

Shore was one of seven finalists named in the fourth-annual Mr. Baseball Award, presented by the Minnesota Minute Men in cooperation with the Minnesota Twins.

Fourteen senior baseball players were nominated by Major League Baseball scouts and college baseball coaches.

Shore also made the MSHSL’s All-Tournament team with Kelm.

Kelm went a combined 5-for-9 at the plate scoring three runs as the Cardinals lead-off batter.

Coe said the senior shortstop was the most focused player on the squad all tournament. “I have nothing but admiration for him. He was the most consistent player for us,” he said.

Looking head to next spring, Coe said he and assistant coach Don Bright will be together at least one more season, their 22nd year with the program, “It’s going to be one more year for sure then we’re going to go year-by-year after that,” he said.

“I’m still enjoying it and keeping young with the kids. I enjoy the team, the friendships you make with the kids and that’s what you’re going to remember.”

Coe started at Coon Rapids in 1973. He has coached boys’ hockey for 14 seasons and helped start the girls’ soccer program as a junior varsity coach back in the 1970s.

Besides graduating Shore, the Cardinals graduated 11 players including three-year starting catcher Mrosla.

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