Plainview-Elgin-Millville baseball coach Scott Flattum read some words of wisdom on Thursday morning that he carried over to the Section 1AA championship game later that night.
"In coaching you should get some joy and some peace," he said. "And I had that with me all day. I know our pitching staff is good so I wasn't sweating it at all."
P-E-M rode a strong pitching performance by senior Luke Stevens and sophomore Jameson Brinkman to earn the school's first baseball state berth since Plainview merged with Elgin-Millville. The Bulldogs defeated Lourdes 11-5 in 10 innings in the 1AA championship game on Thursday at Mayo Field. Plainview last earned a state berth nearly four decades ago.
“It’s been 36 years since we’ve last been to state so it feels really good to break that curse,” P-E-M senior Luke Stevens said. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and keep the momentum rolling.”
P-E-M posted a perfect 5-0 record in section play and went 2-0 against Lourdes, scoring the winning runs in its final at-bat each time.
“I’d much rather play a game like that, that goes down to the last inning more than a blowout,” Stevens said. “Those are the games we live for.”
Lourdes had nipped P-E-M 5-3 during the regular season.
“I think the motivation from earlier in the year when we lost to them was in the back of our head,” P-E-M senior Conner Schumacher said. “And we just kept fighting.”
Thursday's win wasn't easy as Lourdes rallied from 3-0, 4-3 and 5-4 deficits. The Eagles tied the game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh as Alex Rudquist's infield single popped out of a diving Brinkman's glove at third to drive in a run from third.
“I was proud of our approach, we took great at-bats all night,” Lourdes coach Dave Jenson said. “For us to battle back each time they scored I think really shows the character of the team we have.”
Brinkman then took over the mound and threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Lourdes had a runner reach second with two outs in the ninth, but Jason Feils then snared a looping liner to short by Rudquist.
“There’s no quit in this team, we just needed to make one more play or scratch out one more run early and then we’re where we want to be,” Jenson said. “But all the credit to the Bulldogs.”
P-E-M broke through with six runs in the 10th. Lourdes had fielded flawlessly the first nine innings, but two infield errors set the tone for the big inning.
“Plainview has a great lineup and we knew they were going to hit,” Jenson said. “We knew we had to play a great game defensively and we played error-free baseball for nine innings.”
Junior Baden Fenton, the Bulldogs' No. 7 hitter, and No. 9 hitter Derek Boyum hit RBI singles to start the scoring in the 10th and then Schumacher and Feils, the top two hitters in the order, followed with two-run singles.
“I think we were just staying positive and keeping the guys up and just believing in each other,” Schumacher said. “Put the ball in play and good things happen.”
Stevens, a big left-handed hitter, belted a solo homer to put the Bulldogs up 5-4 in the fifth and he stomped on the plate when he reached home.
"I love to play with intensity," he said. "I always think that if I'm not playing intense, I'm not having fun. I like to be part of the game."
The Bulldogs finished with 16 hits and Lourdes had 10.
The bottom three hitters in the P-E-M order -- Fenton, Christian Tentis and Boyum -- combined to go 8-for-15 with four runs scored and four RBIs.
“We definitely can hit,” Flattum said.
Sam Schneider went 3-for-4 for Lourdes and Jack Jakub, the hard-luck losing pitcher who gave up six unearned runs, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
“Lourdes is a great ballclub and we put some balls in spots that are down (for hits), but they caught some,” Schumacher said. ‘Every run was a premium, we had to make plays and we did.”
If Lourdes (20-4) would have won the first game, they would have needed to defeat P-E-M one more time on Thursday to earn a state berth.
“It’s obviously hard right now when you see the seniors who have given so much and they know that it’s over,” Jenson said. “My message to them was ‘You’re going to have disappointments in life.’ As long as you can look in the mirror and say we worked as hard as we could. And we stayed together as a team and played as brothers.”
Flattum said that on the first day of practice he told his team they could be section champions. That dream has now come true. Plainview-Elgin-Millville (19-3) advances to the Class AA state tournament and plays in the state quarterfinals on Tuesday in St. Cloud.
“I want to recognize our 2020 seniors are with us because they lost out on last season (due to COVID-19) and they could have done this, too,” Flattum said.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville 11, Lourdes 5
East No. 2 Plainview-Elgin-Millville: Conner Schumacher 2-for-6, 2 RBI, 1 R; Brock Martinez 1 R; Luke Stevens 2-for-6, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R; Jason Feils 2-for-6, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 R; Christian Tentis 2-for-5, 1 R; Baden Fenton 3-for-5, 2 RBI, 2 R; Matthew Keller 1-for-5, 1 RBI, 2 R; Dereck Boyum 3-for-5, 2 RBI, 1 R; Jameson Brinkman 1-for-5, 1 RBI, 1 R. Pitchers: Luke Stevens 6 2/3 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K; Jameson Brinkman (WP) 3 1/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K.
West No. 1 Lourdes: Jack Jakub 2-for-5, 3 RBI; Nolan Jurgenson 1-for-4, 1 R; Alex Rudquist 1-for-2, 1 RBI, 1 R; Braden Mlenar 1 R; Sam Schneider 3-for-4, 2 R; Seth Haight 1-for-5, 1 RBI; Joe Sperry 1-for-6 ,1 2B; Gannon Fix 1-for-5. Pitchers: Braden Mlenar 8 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K; Jack Jakub (LP) 2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.