Maple Grove made a deep run into the Section 5 baseball tournament but it ended in a loss to top-seeded Coon Rapids in the championship game. The Crimson lost its second section game to Coon Rapids May 24 but reeled off four straight wins to earn a shot at the Cardinals.
The Crimson toppled No. 4 seed Centennial 5-1 June 3. Down 0-1 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Joe Franta delivered the game-tying run to ignite a five-run inning. Ben Osborn plated Franta for the go ahead run. A Nate Erickson two-run triple capped off the inning.
Franta paced Maple Grove defensively and at the plate. In the first inning his diving catch of a sinking line drive squelched a bases loaded scoring opportunity for the Cougars. Franta went 2-3, drove in one and scored one run.
“Joe has come up big this spring both on defense and offense,” Maple Grove coach Darby Carlson said. “He has been our most consistent performer throughout the season.”
The Crimson relied on freshman Brett Schulze to eat up innings en route to the win. Schulze allowed one earned run, four hits and no walks while striking out one over seven innings of work.
Maple Grove made the most of three hits in a 3-0 victory over Champlin Park in the semifinal June 4. Both teams put runners in scoring position, but the Crimson capitalized on more RBI opportunities, pulling out a win.
The Rebels got seven hits compared with just three for the Crimson, but could not capitalize as they stranded nine on base.
The Crimson’s Erick Kivi demonstrated poise as he kept Champlin Park off the scoreboard for all seven innings he was on the hill. He pitched a shutout, scattering seven hits while ringing up two.
“A great pitching performance by Erick,” Carlson said. “He has struggled a little this season with control but walked no one in this our biggest upset of the season.”
Maple Grove went up for good in the second, scoring two runs on a double by Tyler Field, a groundout by Erickson, and an RBI single by Mason McMahon. McMahon’s sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh provided an insurance run.
Maple Grove mustered only two hits against the Cards’ Logan Shore and lost 8-1 in the section final June 7.
“It would take a near perfect game to defeat the talent-loaded Cardinals, and the Crimson weren’t up to task as we committed four errors and allowed seven walks,” Carlson said. “In our run of big wins coming up through the loser bracket we played error free and were stingy with the walks. It proved to be a winning combination that allowed us to hang around long enough for something good to happen on offense. But against a pitcher like Logan Shore, you are not going to have the luxury of scoring a lot of runs to make up for your mistakes and tonight Coon Rapids was the better ball club.”
Osborn led Maple Grove offensively as he went 1-3 with an RBI triple in the fourth inning. Isaac Collins singled to pick up the other Crimson hit.
Shore, a division one recruit headed to Florida, got the win for Coon Rapids. He allowed one run over seven innings. He struck out nine, walked none and surrendered two hits.
Maple Grove finished the season winning seven of their last nine games with the two losses at the hands of Shore who was named Metro Player of the Year.
While disappointed at falling short of going to the state tournament, Carlson is very pleased with his team’s strong section showing.
“I am extremely proud of our players as they developed into a scrappy bunch who never quit, and that says a lot about their character,” he said.