Emmerich’s gem guides Foley baseball to state championship

Target Field, here they come

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As Foley catcher Josiah Petersen’s glove closed around a pop-up in foul territory in front of his team’s dugout, it marked a landmark moment for the Falcons.

Foley has been a program continually on the rise the last decade, emerging as a consistent threat to win Section 6AA each and every year while boasting state-contenting teams at multiple levels.

The out, though, cemented success in a whole new fashion, as it was the final out of a 4-0 victory over Esko, advancing Foley to the Minnesota State High School League Class AA Baseball State Tournament championship game at Target Field in Minneapolis for the first time in school history.

“Seeing the smiles and celebrations after the last two games is incredible,” said Mike Beier, head coach in his 21st season. “Those are things you’ll remember forever. It’s more about them; don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re there, but I’m glad they’ll have that experience for the rest of their lives.”

Off the back of an emotional come-from-behind, walk-off 6-5 win over Zumbrota-Mazeppa in the first round of Class AA tournament play the day before, the Falcons knew a major test stood between them and Target Field: Esko, the reigning state champions and the bracket’s top seed.

All the potential nerves surrounding that kind of matchup dissipated immediately for Foley, who tallied two runs in the first inning. With two outs and a runner on, Reed Hermanson singled and Trey Emmerich walked before Derek Dahmen was beaned by a pitch, bringing home the first run. Moments later, an errant pickoff attempt at second base led to Hermanson scampering home for an extra score.

Scoring runs in unconventional ways was a theme for the Falcons, who later laid down a suicide squeeze play in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend their lead. The Section 6AA champs compiled only four hits, but made the most of them.

“The small ball definitely came through in the end,” said Trey Emmerich, senior pitcher. “The suicide squeeze was huge to get that extra run. Those four runs are huge with only four hits.”

Starting down a 25-win Esko team capable of firing off runs in bunches, Foley turned to Emmerich in the biggest start of his decorated career. The southpaw stifled Esko all game long, mixing his pitches effectively and striking out 13 batters in 6 2/3 innings of work.

“That was magical what he just did there,” Beier said. … “It’s special. He got all three pitches over early, so now the hitters are thinking, ‘Is it a change-up? Is it a curveball? Is it a fastball?’ He got them off-balance, and his stuff moves as much as anyone. It’s tough to hit a moving fastball at 86 mph.”

Oftentimes, Emmerich’s strikeouts came to negate Esko threats. He picked up an important K to strand the bases loaded in the second inning, and after allowing back-to-back hits to begin the fifth inning, came back to strike out the side.

The Falcons made clutch defensive plays in the field to keep Esko off the scoreboard. The biggest example of this came in the sixth inning. With the bases juiced, Derek Dahmen scooped a slow-moving ground ball before colliding with an advancing runner, recording the crisis-averting force-out through the contact.

“We had errors and plays we could have made, but we all stayed calm and did our jobs,” Emmerich said.

And in a trend that has been maintained all season long, Foley relied on many members of its 10-person senior class to extend their season-long winning streak and continue a stretch of high school the town has never seen before. Petersen skied an RBI double to the wall in left-center field, Jace Molitor laid down the bunt that made the suicide squeeze play possible and Bryce Gapinski came on in relief to get the final out of the contest.

“As Mitch (assistant coach Mitch Keeler) and I talk about, it’s the seniors’ year,” Beier said. “It’s the seniors who have gotten us here. Their attitude and belief is unbelievable, and that’s a big reason why we’re here.”

The Falcons will battle the second-seeded Rockford Rockets for the state title at 1 p.m. Monday, June 17. The Rockets won the Section 5AA championship before defeating Blake 2-1 in the quarterfinals and conquering Le Sueur-Henderson 7-3 in the semifinals.

“We’re going to go win it,” Emmerich said.

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