With none of the drama normally associated with state championship games, the Mahtomedi Zephyrs wrapped up the Class AAA baseball title with a 20-3 conquest of Grand Rapids on Friday afternoon at Target Center.
Against a Grand Rapids team that had completely run out of pitching, the Zephyrs scored 10 runs in the sixth inning and notched the largest margin of victory for a state championship in the history of the tournament. (Previous record was Rochester Lourdes 15, Blue Earth Area 0, in 2002).
Mahtomedi, coached by Rob Garry, finished 20-5 with 10 straight wins. Grand Rapids finished 19-8.
Johnny DeVore was Mahtomedi’s starter, pitching for the first time since 10th grade, after Luke Loughlin and Tony Neubeck threw shutouts in the first two rounds. DeVore, previously sidelined by arm trouble this season, threw four shutout innings before giving up three runs in the fifth. Wyatt Miller moved over from third base and got the last five outs. He also supplied a two-run single at the plate.
The Zephyrs collected 15 hits, 13 walks and three hit-by-pitches against six Grand Rapids pitches.
Grand Rapids couldn’t get the Zephyrs' first five hitters out.
Ethan Loss had a double, triple, hit-by-pitch, three runs, and two stolen bases in the leadoff slot. Jordan Hull got on base in all five at-bats in the No. 2 slot with two singles, twice hit-by-pitch, and a walk, and scored four runs. Zephyr catcher Kyle Oswald was 2-for-5 with an RBI at No. 3 and his courtesy runner Roan Appert scored three runs. Tony Neubeck at cleanup went 2-for-3 with a double, two walks, three runs and three RBI’s. No. 5 hitter Luke Loughlin bashed four hits, including a double, in five trips, knocking in four runs and scoring two.
The Zephyrs were up 10-0 going into the last of the fifth. DeVore had been hit hard in the fourth but left bases loaded with outfielders Loss and Loughlin chasing down two long flies. DeVore got the leadoff batter on a ground out in the fifth and the Zephyrs were two outs away from imposing the 10-run rule and finishing the state tournament unscored-upon. However, Grand Rapids ripped three straight hits, scoring one run. Miller relieved and gave up two run-scoring singles before retiring the side.
That extended the game to the sixth inning, where the Zephyrs paraded 10 runs across the plate, on seven walks and four hits against three pitchers, including a three-run double by Sam Ruzynski, one of four pinch-hitters in that inning as Garry cleared the bench.
DeVore got the win, going 4 1/3 innings, allowing five hits, six walks, and three runs, with one strikeout.
This was Mahtomedi’s sixth state tournament, all since 2014, their third state championship game and second championship. The 2018 team beat Rocori 5-1 in the finals and the top-ranked 2016 team was upset by Henry Sibley 8-4 in the finals.
Ren Morque, Myles Gunderson and Kyle Henke each had two hits for Grand Rapids. Morque, the starting pitcher, took the loss (3 2/3 innings, seven runs). The Thunder Hawks beat Marshall 6-2 and St. Thomas Academy 4-3 to reach the finals.
The Zephyrs were ranked No. 5 at the end of the regular season behind Mankato West, Willmar, Sartell-St. Stephen, and Chisago Lakes. Grand Rapids was unranked. Mankato West lost to Marshall in their section finals 2-1. Willmar lost its first-round game to St. Thomas Academy at state 16-9. Mahtomedi beat Sartell-St. Stephen 7-0 in the state semifinals after beating Sauk Rapids-Rice 2-0 in the first round.