Faribault Lakers Season Ends Painfully
It hurts when a sports season comes to an end. It stings a little more to have it come in a thriller that you will remember for a long time. And it throbs like a smack to the face when it occurs on a broken-bat, infield single in the bottom of the ninth inning of the state amateur baseball tournament.
All that happened to the Faribault Lakers baseball club Saturday night in New Prague in a 1-0 loss to Plato in the round-of-16 on the class C tourney. The Lakers season ends with a 21-16 record and a state tournament appearance for the fourth time in the last five years.
On the final play, Lakers pitcher Matt Lane scrambled to field a ball between the mound and third base with Bluejays runners at first and second and one out. Lane snapped off an off-balance throw that took a wicked hop and hit first baseman Ryan Archambault in the face. He crumbled to the ground while the winning run crossed home plate. It was the only run allowed by the Lakers in three state tournament games.
Plato delayed their celebration for a short time while Faribault players gathered around Archambault. He was helped to his feet as the Bluejays congratulated Ryan Moriarty, who was credited with a game-winning hit, driving in Tyler Lang who had doubled to lead off the inning.
Plato's Nolan Lepel unsuccessfully attempted to bunt him forward and was then struck out by Lane, his seventh fanning of the game. The Lakers offered an intentional walk to the designated hitter Adam Prehn. Moriarty had one strike when he broke his bat to bring the game to a close.
The Lakers threatened in the top of the ninth, one of just three innings where they put runners on base against Plato's Chris Odegaard. Blake Langerud legged out an infield single that deflected off Odegaard's glove. Mitch Johnson sacrificed him to second. Odegaard got his eighth strikeout against Joey Grote and Lane lifted a fly ball to centerfield to end the inning.
Faribault's other good scoring opportunity came in the fourth when Langerud walked and Johnson singled to lead off the inning. But the Lakers went down in order after that.
Plato, who won the state tournament in 2015, had several scoring chances that the Lakers squashed with great defense. In the bottom of the first, Odegaard led off with a single, but was later erased on a inning-ending double play. In the third, Plate had consecutive singles with two outs to put runners on the corners. Lakers third baseman Adam Kline made a charging play on a roller to end the inning.
In the fourth, Plato had a walk and single with one out that left runners at second and third. Moriarty lined out to Archambault and Lane struck out the next batter to end the threat.
The Lakers flashed some stellar defense in the sixth to continue the scoreless dual. Langerud made a pair of great catches in left field, sandwiching a double hit by Lang which Langerud nearly caught. Shortstop Joey Grote ended the inning with a web gem. He dove behind the bag at second to snag a sharply hit ball, and while still on the ground, made a throw to first to end the inning. The play prompted a standing ovation in the press box. (Fans may have done the same but I couldn't see the bleachers from my broadcast location in the press box, located atop the first base dugout.)
Those bleachers were packed beyond capacity for the 95th state amateur tournament being co-hosted by New Prague and Shakopee. Action continues Sunday with the title games in Class C and B on Monday.
The game between Faribault and Plato started at 9 pm, 90 minutes behind schedule, due to a marathon 14-inning affair early in the day. That game was won by Sartell over Red Wing 1-0. Faribault was making its 13th state tournament appearance, dating all the way back to 1926. The Lakers (21-16) have finished third twice. Plato is in their 18th state tournament, all since 1977. The Bluejays (22-1) won it all in 1996, 2007 and 2015.