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1D Rockets were, oh, so close to state

By Ben Pherson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

RED WING, Minn. — Rochester John Marshall baseball coach Dutch Heiderscheit has been around many good baseball games over the years. But he had a hard time thinking of a game better than the one he witnessed Monday night during the Section One, Class AAA Final Four at The Athletic Field.

It’s unfortunate for the Rockets, but they came out on the wrong end of the epic contest.

Owatonna scored one run in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie and scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the 12th, giving the Huskies a 3-2 victory and a trip to the Class AAA state tournament.

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"I’ve been around a lot of ballgames, and this is going to rank right up there with the great ones that I’ll never forget," Heiderscheit said. "For both teams, it was incredible. For those kids to go out there, with what was on the line, and to keep making plays, inning after inning, that was impressive."

In a game that ended in the 12th inning, neither team committed an error.

Owatonna closer Cody Johnson earned the victory by pitching seven innings of scoreless baseball. Johnson, who improved to 4-0 in the postseason, threw nearly 100 pitches in the longest outing of his career.

"My back was cramping up a little, but my arm’s not even tired," Johnson said. "I wanted that chance to be the one. So many times I’ve (been) second, and I finally had the chance to take the ball."

For 11 John Marshall seniors, it was their last game in a Rockets uniform. Heiderscheit said the loss doesn’t take away from a remarkable season. JM ascended all the way to No. 1 in the Class AAA state rankings and finished the season with a 24-3 record.

"This was a fun group of guys to be around," Heiderscheit said. "The last two years, I think we were something like 49-7. A lot of these kids were a big part of that. We won a couple Big Nine (titles), got to state last year, and it took an incredible performance by Owatonna to keep us out of state. That’s a lot to hang their hats on."

The 3-2 loss came after the Rockets forced a second game by beating Owatonna 6-1 in the opener Monday night.

Derek Hovick was fantastic in that game. The JM senior tossed a three-hitter and struck out six in the complete-game victory.

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Andrew Roble started the second game and allowed one run on just two hits through five innings. Joe Moen, who pitched a complete game Saturday against Owatonna, tossed the next five innings. Moen allowed one run on five hits, while striking out four. Hovick came in and tossed the final two innings and took the loss.

"It was tough, what I asked those guys (Hovick and Moen) to do, to come back on short rest," Heiderscheit said. "Those two kids did a great job. They both battled."

JM twice left the bases loaded in the game and left nine runners on base through five innings.

"We were worried that would come back and haunt us, and it did," Heiderscheit said.

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