Baseball: Heritage doubles up Randolph for 4A title
ROSEVILLE — Randolph needed just one win to secure its first state trip in school history.
But even though Heritage Christian Academy needed to win two over the Rockets, the Eagles were a potent threat, thanks to a high-scoring offense and Minnesota's Gatorade Player of the Year in Seth Halvorsen.
And over two games, Heritage was able to keep Randolph from a state trip to Jordan.
Halvorsen, a Missouri signee and a 30th-round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in this year's MLB Draft, tallied 17 strikeouts to lead the Eagles to a 5-1 Game 1 victory. Then in the winner-take-all matchup, a 6-0 deficit was too much for the Rockets to overcome as Heritage secured the section title with a 7-5 Game 2 win at Northwestern College.
"The first game, (Halvorsen) was lights out and that put us behind the eight-ball," said Rockets head coach Chris Stanton. "Game two, we came back with the big inning, which showed our boys were willing to fight."
In Game 1, it took five innings before Randolph was able to get a hit as Isaac Stoetz got an infield single. In the sixth, Joey Erickson scored the team's lone run on a Dane Ehleringer double to left-center.
Heritage jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead after Halvorsen stole home and Taylor Broderson scored on a Steph Sawtelle sacrifice fly. Two more runs came in the third on a Zach Richards sacrifice fly and a Wyatt Juelich-Lysne single. The final run came on a Sawtelle sacrifice fly in the fourth.
As important as the runs was Heritage forcing the Rockets to go to the bullpen and throw its top two pitchers in Andrew Wenstrom and Matt Weber. In Game 2, Randolph gave the ball to Nick Drinken. Drinken had two tough innings to start with the Eagles taking a 5-0 lead before settling in for two scoreless innings. He went 5 ⅓ innings, allowing seven runs on 12 hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
"I wasn't expecting to go on but I was ready for it," Drinken said. "We had confidence (going into Game 2) but we had a few mental errors. ... And they hit it where we weren't."
"Nick was down on himself and our defense misplayed a few balls," Stanton said. "He came back and pitched very well. This will help him handle adversity."
Even down 5-0, the Rockets weren't out of it yet with a four-run top of the fifth. With back-to-back singles from Drinken and AJ Weidner, they both reached home on a Shae Staub double. Then with two outs, Wenstrom cracked a two-out, two-run home run to left-center to cut the gap to one.
"That was awesome. When you get on a roll, it's hard to stop," Drinken said. "You got to keep going and going and keep scoring until you're right up there."
Heritage made it a two-run game in the bottom of the fifth when pitcher Jonny Flynn hit an RBI single. One more Eagles run came in the bottom of the sixth on an error that allowed Taylor Brodersen to score.
Randolph had one more glimmer of hope with Weidner hitting a solo home run to lead off the top of the seventh before Flynn got three straight outs to secure the section title for Heritage.
The Eagles will open the Class A state tournament on Thursday, June 14 at Chaska.
Randolph ends the 2018 season at 17-2. And with a roster with no seniors, the Rockets hope Thursday's section final is a familiar scene for a few seasons. And hopefully, a better result in the future.
"We got a good young group. Our core group is JV-aged. That gives us hope," Stanton said. "We always expect to do well and the kids always play huge."