Momentum is a funny thing. It can switch at a drop of a hat. Or in this case, a bat.
A half-inning after Miesville plated two runs, claiming a 2-1 lead over Chanhassen in the Class B State Amateur Baseball Championship, Zach Hoffmann found a 3-1 pitch to his liking. The crack of the bat said it all. A 3-run homer over the fence in left-center field. A 4-2 Red Bird lead that never vanquished.
A four-peat for the Chanhassen Red Birds in Class B in a 9-2 victory Sept. 5 at Athletic Park in Chaska.
"It's special every time you get to that point," Chanhassen's Michael Jurgella said about the winning celebration. "It's something not everyone gets to experience, and you appreciate it when it happens."
When you think of Class B baseball in Minnesota, Chanhassen and Miesville are at the top. The Mudhens were state champions in 2016 and 2017, runner-up to the Red Birds in 2018. Chanhassen was runner-up to Miesville in 2017 and since has won four titles, only the second team to do so in 98 years of tournament history.
Albert Lea's run came between 1944 and 1948.
So it was only fitting that two days after fireworks erupted on the field in the winners bracket final, a 3-2 win for Chanhassen over Miesville, the two teams met again in the championship.
While the Red Birds claimed an early 1-0 lead in the third inning, an Aaron Pfaff hustle double and Brandon Arnold chopper up the middle, the Mudhens answered.
A hit and two walks loaded the bases for Joey Werner, who tied the game on a fielder's choice, beating the relay throw at first base, while Matt van der Bosch's RBI-single with two outs gave Miesville the lead at 2-1.
Thomas Thompson, making his third championship game appearance for the Red Birds, now 21 years old, struck out three batters, allowing four hits and three walks in the no-decision.
Player/manager Brandon Arnold, who said before the game he wavered about who to start, Thompson or Logan Spitzack, the 2019 championship game winner, quickly made the move with two outs in the fifth inning.
Spitzack, after not playing in 2020 and seeing more limited innings in 2021, got the final out of the fifth, and then nine more, five via strikeout. It was vintage Spitzack, who twice got Miesville catcher Nate Hammes out on consecutive three curve ball swing and misses.
The Chanhassen offense, dormant much of the season, pitching leading the way to a 33-2 record, came alive, scoring four runs in the fifth inning, another tally in the seventh and three more in the eighth.
Jurgella and Brandon Arnold each reached base with two outs in the pivotal fifth inning. After watching the first four pitches, including a 3-0 fastball down the middle of the plate, Hoffmann saw a similar pitch on 3-1. He didn't miss.
"That was the turning point. It was an absolute game changer. It swung the momentum over to us," Jurgella said of the home run. "Their pitcher did a good job keeping us off balance early. It was about grinding out some at-bats. Second, third time around, we made the adjustments."
A two-base throwing error extended the inning, Riley Johnson scoring on a Ben Livorsi hit off the right-field fence at 5-2.
Justin Anderson, who like Spitzack stepped away from the team in 2020, returned, extending the lead to 6-2 on an RBI-single in the seventh inning.
Chanhassen would add three more runs, Pfaff collecting his third hit and second run, setting the stage for the 1-2-3 ninth inning for Red Birds closer Miles Nablo. An infield pop out to Jurgella at third base.
En sue a dog pile on the pitcher's mound.
"That's a good team over there. Thomas did his job and Spitty came in and did a great job and then Nablo closed the door. This team plays clean baseball, gets good pitching, and when you do that you're always going to be around," Jurgella said.
Jurgella, Arnold, Pfaff, Hoffmann, who homered twice in the tournament -- both at Athletic Park -- and John Straka, tournament most valuable player for the third consecutive year (second-most in state history), were all included on the all-tournament team.
Straka, who pitched 25 innings with a 3-0 record, allowed just three runs in the tournament, defeating the Moorhead Mudcats, Rochester Royals and Miesville Mudhens, both in one-run games.