By Brenda Erdahl:
After three days of state tournament play, a final strikeout brought it all to a close Saturday, June 16 at Target Field where the Maple Lake Irish won its first state baseball title.
After defeating Dilworth-Glyndon- Felton 9-0 on Thursday, June 14, the Irish edged Jordan 4-3 Friday, June 15 in the semi-finals to get to Target Field where they met No. 1 seed Marshall School, Duluth. The Irish were up 8-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning when senior pitcher Grant Mergen struck out Marshall’s Cole MacCoux for the win.
It was the second state title in the past eight days for Irish athletics, and the fourth this year. The Maple Lake softball team beat St. Peter for the honor on Thursday, June 7; the girls’ track and field team won State True Team, and last fall the Irish volleyball team won their second consecutive state championship.
“Believe it or not I wasn’t nervous at all,” senior Cole Trager said. He called playing at Target Field a “dream come true” and especially liked seeing his face on the big screen which made him feel like a pro.
“I think almost everyone was really just excited more than any nervousness. How could you not be confident going into the state finals with your best pitcher on the mound?”
Saving Mergen for the final game was key to the Irish win, according to Irish Head Coach Brooks Marquardt. Maple Lake was up several runs over Dylworth- Glyndon-Felton in their first tournament match-up Thursday when coaches made the decision to pull Mergen after the third inning. That allowed him to throw in the finals where “Grant did Grant things and we came out on top,” Marquardt said.
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