MINNEAPOLIS – Baseball is fickle.
That’s an age-old truism that after Friday’s Class AAA state semifinal game between Austin and St. Thomas Academy is to the Packers’ chagrin.
Thursday, in the quarterfinals, Austin did everything with tidy efficiency in recording an upset win over No. 2 seed Hill-Murray. But Friday? Not so much.
Unseeded Austin (15-9) committed three costly errors which loomed large as it was bounced in the semifinals by No. 3 seed St. Thomas Academy 9-5 at the University of Minnesota’s Siebert Field.
The Packers were playing in the state baseball tournament for the first time since 1990.
“The bottom line is that we just didn’t make the plays today that we did yesterday,” Austin coach Joe Kroc said before his team beat No. 1 seed Monticello 5-1 in the third-place game Thursday evening. “We had some big errors that cost us.
“I think we’re better than (St. Thomas Academy), but we didn’t execute on the little things. But I’m not blaming our players at all. That’s just baseball.”
Austin got itself in trouble in a relative hurry against the Cadets, who moved to 20–9 and will play No. 5 seed Benilde-St. Margaret’s in Thursday’s state finals at Target Field.
St. Thomas Academy scored in three innings – the third, fourth and seventh. In two of those frames, errors were a contributing factor.
The Cadets built a 4-0 lead in the third, when two of its runs were unearned.
In the seventh, just one of St. Thomas Academy’s three runs was earned.
But all of that happened with a calm understanding from the Austin players.
“Baseball is a game of mistakes,” Austin senior leader Hunter Guyette said. “You can have good games and you can have games like we just had.”
Despite a handful of Austin mistakes that contributed to it trailing 6-0 going into the bottom of the fourth, the Packers managed to perform the rest of the contest as they’re renowned for.
“We never quit,” Guyette said. “We always are taught that mental positive attitude. We finish every game to the last out, no matter what.”
That refusal-to-die approach put Austin right back in the game. After managing just two hits the first three innings, the Packers strung together four straight hits in the bottom of the fourth to score three runs. Teyghan Hovland had the big blow, a two-run double.
Austin showed the same fortitude in the sixth when it narrowed the score to 6-5. Again, the big blow came from Hovland, as he smoked a two-run home run to left.
“I just kept trying to battle their pitcher,” said Hovland, who fouled off a series of pitches before going deep.
Austin would get not closer than that. The Cadets answered with three runs of their own in the top of the seventh. And finally, in its half of the frame, Austin had no more answers.
Still, Kroc went into the third-place game with a smile.
This Packers bunch, he says, is special.
"I can't say enough about our kids," Kroc said. "To be down 6-0, then have (St. Thomas Academy) on the ropes after that, I am just so proud of our guys."
• Austin finished on a high note, using excellent pitching by Michael O’Connor and a home run by Andrew Mueller as it beat No. 1 seed Monticello 5-1 in the third-place game.
O’Connor pitched the first 6 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits and one run. Austin finished with six hits, Monticello four.
Austin finished its season 16-9. Monticello ended 19-7.
St. Thomas Academy 9, Austin 5
St. Thomas Academy#004#200#3#--#9#9#1
St. Thomas Academy: Carter Henry 2-for-5, 2 R; Judd Fenlon 2-for-3; Patrick Walsh 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 2B; Joseph Goulet 2-for-3, 3 RBI, 1 2B; Duke Coborn 1-for-3, 1 R; Callan Happe 1-for-4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 3B. Pitching: Joseph Goulet 3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K; Vincent Hubbell (WP) 4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
Austin: Andrew Shumacher 1-for-4; Hunter Guyette 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 2B; Andrew Mueller 1-for-4, 1 R; Michael O’Connor 2-for-2, 2 R, 1 RBI; Teyghan Hovland 2-for-3, 1 R, 4 RBI, 1 HR. Pitching: Tony Ciola (LP) 3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K; Nate Murphy 3 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 1 B, 2 K; Guyette 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 1 K.
Austin 5, Monticello 1
Austin: Andrew Shumacher 1 RBI; Hunter Guyette 1-for-2, 2 R, 1 SB; Andrew Mueller 1-for-3, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR; Michael O’Connor 2-for-4; Teyghan Hovland 1-for-4, 1 R, 1 RBI; Tony Ciola 1-for-2, 1 RBI. Pitching: O’Connor (WP) 6 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7 BB, 5 K; Ciola 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
Monticello: Statistics not available.