CARROLL — St. Albert advanced to the Class 1A baseball state championship game for the first time since 1999 on Wednesday, beating Alburnett 10-0 in five innings at Merchants Park in Carroll.
Falcons head coach Duncan Patterson said he knew a key for his team was great pitching and fielding to defeat the upset-minded Pirates — long story short, they did exactly that.
“Our defense came out strong,” Patterson said. “We had a big double play early on and Jeff (Miller) just pounded the zone. He mixed his speeds, threw fastballs, curveballs, change-ups, sliders. He looked outstanding and the defense was there to back him up all day long.”
The Falcons flew out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning, as Jaxon Lehnen connected for a lead-off single, Carter White walked, Brett Klusman bunted and reached on a throwing error to first, which scored a run. Miller and Isaac Sherril also connect for RBI singles.
“We’ve said before, the hits are contagious here,” sophomore Colton Brennan said. “When one guy hits and then everyone else seems to start hitting the ball around. We know that’s what we have to do, keep hitting the ball and then score runs.”
Brennan finished his day with two hits and an RBI.
St. Albert doubled its score with another four-run inning to go up 8-0 after four.
Miller kept the Pirates in check throughout, striking out four batters while pitching all five innings.
Fittingly, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning, Miller ended the game via the 10-run mercy rule with a two-RBI single.
“I think the fact that we were patient at the plate really set us up,” Miller said. “We waited to get our pitch and that’s what we worked on at practice and it really helped us get the bats going.
“We saw Alburnett play on Monday, so we knew they could hit the ball really well. We knew our defense also had to come in and shut them down and that’s what we did.”
Miller had three hits and four RBIs in addition to being credited with a win on the mound for St. Albert.
With the win, St. Albert will play for a chance to earn the program’s fourth state baseball title and its first since 1999. Being just one win away is nothing short of an awesome feeling for this group of players.
“We knew we could do this and now we’re really excited,” Brennan said. “We’ve made it, now it’s time to finish the goal.”
“St. Albert has so much tradition in other sports like football, basketball, volleyball,” Duncan Patterson added. “We’re just trying to get that tradition back with our baseball program and see where it takes us tomorrow.
“It’s going to be an amazing atmosphere tomorrow. We’ve been working for it. This is my fifth year and third time at state, each year we were just trying to get over the hump. We made it this far, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
For the seniors on this team, who have been a part of three state tournaments, a chance to end their careers as No. 1 is a dream they’ve been working on for years.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Miller said. “I’m so proud of all my guys today. We came ready to play and that’s all you can ask for. I’m excited, but we can’t let the moment get into our heads, we got to stay focused and bring what we did today into tomorrow.”
St. Albert will battle the Lansing Kee Hawks at noon Thursday night for the Class 1A title at Merchants Park in Carroll.
Alburnett (29-9) 000 00 — 0 3 1
St. Albert (33-8) 040 42 — 10 10 1