Walk-off win sends Falcons baseball to semifinals

Heartbreaker avoided, history made


The Foley Falcons baseball team have endured their fair share of postseason losses and soaked in the pain and disappointment that comes with heartbreaking defeats so late in the season.

Down 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning after the Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars put up two runs in the top half of the inning, the Falcons looked to be on the cusp of another tough end to their spring. Instead, their unwavering belief in themselves culminated in a historic rally.

Jaden Enerson Bryce Gapinski’s sac fly with the bases loaded propelled Foley to the Minnesota State High School League Class AA Baseball State Tournament semifinals for the first time in school history in a 6-5 walk-off win June 13 at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud.

“It definitely feels good to finally get over the hump of playing well, but not finishing it,” said Josiah Petersen, senior pitcher. “It definitely feels good coming from behind and winning in the first round of the state tournament. We knew we could compete with everyone and we knew we could come back from a deficit.”

The matchup began simple enough; starter Josiah Petersen induced a groundout and struck out Kaleb Lochner before the biggest backbreaker – a two-out rally – unfolded. Two straight walks and a seeing-eye infield single loaded the bases before Wilson Nordquist smacked a base hit up the middle, scoring a pair of runs and cementing the Cougars to an early 2-0 lead.

The momentum Zumbrota-Mazeppa gained from that initial strike grew in the second inning. With two outs, Jack Krier, having already swiped second, took off for third base with a quick pace, leading to an errant Foley throw and a third Cougar run crossing home plate.

Business on the other end of things for Foley, meanwhile, was equally frustrating. Bryce Gapinski stole a pair of bases but was stranded on third in the first inning, while the Falcons left two in scoring position in the second.

However, this is a Falcons team comprised of athletes who have faced pressure head-on throughout their entire careers. They were not overwhelmed even as the Cougars delivered an initial blow.

“If we give up our mentality there of staying strong, it’s over there without even playing,” said Gapinski, a senior. “If our mentality isn’t strong, we’re not going to play like we did.”

Turning the game on its head was Petersen, whose proficiency for power hitting always makes him a dangerous threat at the plate. With Gapinski on first, Petersen sent a deep fly ball to left that soared above the ivy and slammed off the scoreboard. Suddenly, as the Foley dugout cleared and the Falcons faithful rose to their feet, the No. 4-seeded Falcons trailed by just one.

“It feels good, after giving up three runs, getting two of those back and helping the team out,” Petersen said.

The home run seemed to provide a spark within the Foley batting order. Brett Leabch and Reed Hermanson immediately followed with singles before future St. Cloud State Huskie Trey Emmerich drilled a ground ball past a diving third baseman and down the left-field line. Leabch narrowly beat the tag at home plate, tying the game at three.

Even as the scoring surge came with no outs, though, the Falcons could not claim the lead, and the game tightened, with neither section winner allowing the other to pull ahead.

Then, the seventh inning arrived, and a spirited Zumbrota-Mazeppa put together several strong swings in the final inning. Preston Ohm doubled off the wall in right to place a pair of runners in scoring position, and Foley brought in lefthander Trey Emmerich to navigate the trouble. However, Hunter Streit did not too much with an Emmerich offering, tripling to right to give the Cougars the advantage once more.

Suddenly, only three outs separated Foley from elimination from championship contention, but the dugout – led by 10 seniors – believed.

“There was just a feeling it wasn’t going to end right there,” Gapinski said.

Cougars thrower Hudson Ohm threw a strikeout to begin the inning but ran into trouble against a Falcons lineup that remained patient and waited for the right pitch. Emmerich found the gap in right-center for a double before Derek Dahmen hustled to first on a strikeout that trickled away from the catcher.

That set up Jaden Enerson for a chance to produce. The team’s senior seventh hitter tagged the ball to deep left field and Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s left fielder could not come down with the ball,bringing home a run. After Jace Molitor coaxed his second walk of the contest, the bases were juiced for senior Alex Jennissen, who took two straight close pitches with two strikes for a gutsy base-on-balls, evening the instant classic at five.

Gapinski came up to the plate right after and did not miss his chance, connecting on a fly ball that scored pinch runner Wyatt Lueck from third.

“It symbolizes how good this team has been playing,” Gapinski said. “We’ve been in this situation before, having to come back. It’s just having that relief moment that we finally made it past the first state game, and hopefully, it’s smooth sailing from here.”

The Falcons will play reigning Class AA champion and top-seeded Esko at 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 14, at Dick Putz Field. Esko took down Montevideo 3-2 in its opening-round tilt.

“We’re trying to take down the top dog,” Gapinski said. “It couldn’t be a better story, I think.”


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