By Nick Gerhardt
Plato manager Adam Dammann called his team’s path to a state title “Redemption Road” and the Bluejays hit the road at 100 mph Monday to clinch the Class C state title.
Plato put to end any late-inning drama with a first-inning outburst that will get talked about for a while.
The Bluejays captured the 2018 Class C state title with a 8-5 victory over Sobieski at New Prague Memorial Park Baseball Stadium behind an eight-run first inning that had everyone stunned.
“We just tried to jump out right away and attack,” Plato second baseman and pitcher Chris Odegaard said. “We didn’t want to sit back. We knew rain was coming. We wanted to get to them as much as we could early. We knew [Sobieski pitcher Tyler] Jendro was going to come back in.”
It’s the second state title in three years for Plato, which won the 2015 title. For Sobieski it was the third appearance in the state title game since 2014 when the Skis won it. Dammann said it was a little bit of redemption for Plato to beat Sobieski after the Skis sent the Bluejays home after one game in last year’s state tournament when they won 5-0 in the second round.
“I don’t want to say it in a bad way but it left a sour taste in the guys’ mouths,” Dammann said.
Plato send 13 batters to the plate in the first inning, got eight hits, including two from Odegaard. Odegaard continued his torrid hitting at the state tournament and finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run. He earned tournament MVP honors after going 14-for-21 for the tournament, a .667 average with four RBI and eight doubles. He also threw 18 scoreless innings, struck out 16, walked two and won two games.
“The last couple of days I saw the ball pretty well,” said Odegaard, whose father has also earned MVP honors at the state tournament. “The game seemed to be slower the last couple of days. It just slowed down. I wanted to go out there and be aggressive. I didn’t want to wait. I got my pitch and I didn’t want to miss it. I wanted to get everything started right away.”
The game slowed down for Odegaard and he said he saw the spin and the pitches out of the pitchers’ hands well at tournament. Plato is certainly happy he saw things so clearly because his four doubles against Kimball Sunday helped send the Bluejays to the title game.
Tyler Lang had two RBI in the first while Adam Prehn, Ryan Moriarty, Dylan McCormick and Odegaard each added RBI before the inning ended.
The Skis, who came into the game undefeated, opted to go with Jack Hegarty to start on the mound after ace Tyler Jendro threw two complete games Sunday to send Sobieski to the state title game for the second time in three years.
Jendro threw 18 innings, allowed three runs on eight hits, walked three and struck out 20 Sunday. He came back for six more Monday.
Hegarty didn’t record an out in the first inning and left with the bases loaded after he walked in a run to make it 2-0 at the time. Hegarty got charged with five of the eight runs in the first inning.
Jendro settled down after the first inning, though he’d given up four hits and three runs in the first inning. He finished six innings, walked two, struck out two and gave up three runs on eight hits.
The Bluejays gave the ball to Cody Hallahan, a draftee from Green Isle, to start on the mound. Hallahan gave Plato four innings, allowed five runs on six hits and walked three.
Hallahan ran into trouble in the fifth inning when the Skis scored three times to make it 8-4. Sobieski got its first run in the third when Scott Litchy hit a home run to right field and got going again in the fifth when Austin Weisz showed off the lauded bunting skills of the Skis with a leadoff bunt single. Riley Hirsch followed with a single and Beau Hanowski brought both in with a double. Hanowski scored one batter later when Litchy doubled for his second RBI of the game.
Then came the rain and it suspended play with runners on first and second with nobody out in the top of the fifth for Sobieski. After the 90-minute rain delay the Skis got another run, courtesy of an RBI single from Jendro to make it an 8-5 game.
Mac Zachow, a former state tournament MVP from Green Isle, threw the final five innings and allowed just three hits and two walks.
Plato won a pair of 1-0 games before beating Hutchinson 6-1 and Kimball 12-5. Dammann called the run “Redemption Road” because Hutchinson, Kimball and Sobieski had all knocked the Bluejays out of other state tournaments.
“All you can say is everyone was ready to go,” Dammann said. “I wish we would’ve added more runs in the game. But eight runs in the first inning is pretty hard to come back from.”
Final attendance for 2018 Class B and C state tournament was 17,349, the highest since 1960 in Springfield. It surpassed the 1998 tournament total of 17,346 in Chaska/Hamburg.
Class C All-Tournament Team
Wyatt White, New London-Spicer
Matt Lane, Faribault
David Deminsky, Sartell
Nate Rost, New Market
Austin Ruehle, Kimball
Ben Johnson, Kimball
Josh Lenz, Young America
Isaac Hormann, Young America
Nolan Lepel, Plato
Jack Hegarty, Sobieski
Tyler Lang, Plato
Beau Hanowski, Sobieski
Matt Odegaard, Plato
Tyler Jendro, Sobieski
Chris Odegaard, Plato
J.M. Brennan Sportsmanship Trophy winner: Buckman Billygoats