MINNEAPOLIS — A state championship in baseball has been a work in progress for Hayfield.
When the current group of Hayfield players were in Little League, they placed second in the state. That's when they realized that they could be a special group of players.
“In fifth grade, at a Little League thing, we had about the same team and went to state and got second place behind Mankato,” senior Lucas Hansen said. “Ever since then, we’ve had the dream of going to state here. And it finally came true.”
- Hayfield rallies to win state championship: 'It's a dream come true'
The Vikings not only went to the Class A state tournament this season, they won it in stellar fashion. After outscoring their first two foes by a combined 32-1 Hayfield capped a perfect 26-0 season with a 7-4 victory over New York Mills in the state title game at Target Field on Friday.
“They’ve played so much baseball and put a ton of time in,” Hayfield coach Kasey Krekling said. “And their families have put a ton of time in. So to see them get to celebrate is going to be a great feeling.”
“It feels great, I’ve been playing with these guys since I was in first grade,” Hayfield junior Easton Fritcher said. “They’ve been my best friends my whole life. To grind throughout my Little League days, my high school days, to win a state championship my junior year, that’s amazing. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.”
This group of Hayfield players is a close-knit group. And not only on the diamond. Fritcher said they are a competitive group that plays other games and sports together. One of those sports is basketball. All 10 of Hayfield's starters Friday were members of the boys basketball team that won the Class A state title back in March.
“We’re really close,” Hansen said. “It’s the most fun group of guys you could ever ask for. It goes beyond the diamond, too. In school, we’re all together, eating at a lunch table together. We’re just always together.”
The Vikings placed fifth in the state in 2019 with a young team that featured many of these same players. Hayfield was expected to have a stellar team in 2020 as well, but the spring season was called off due to COVID-19.
“Last year was supposed to be our year,” Hansen said. “We had like seven seniors and they were supposed to be really good. It was supposed to be exactly like this team. So we were really sad that that team didn’t get a chance to play.”
This year's players had the 2020 seniors in the back of their mind as they captured the first state baseball title in school history.
“They did something we thought they had a good chance of doing last year,” Krekling said. “And I’m glad they were able to fulfill that dream.”
“The memory is being at Target Field, that’s huge for us,” senior Erik Bungum said. “And going undefeated, winning every single game with my best friends and teammates that I’ve had since second grade. That’s what I’ll remember.”
The Vikings will graduate six players, all of whom are starters, but they still have high hopes for 2022.
“It means a lot,” Fritcher said. “We’re going to celebrate and enjoy it, but I’m looking forward to next year and doing it again. We’re going to have a pretty decent team next year so we’re going to keep grinding and hopefully we can do it again.”