In sports, momentum isn’t just a thing, it’s king.
The Eden Prairie American Legion baseball team opened last week’s Sub-State 3 Tournament with four straight wins. Eden Prairie’s run included a 4-3 walk-off win over No. 3-seeded Chaska and an impressive 9-5 victory over No. 1-seeded Edina.
Win No. 4 was a 10-2 come-from-behind victory over Chanhassen (Eden Prairie trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the fifth inning).
“They were playing for their season,” said Eden Prairie coach Valdie Magstadt, of facing Chanhassen on Saturday. “While we wanted to win, we had to keep an eye on what we had hoped to accomplish.”
Eden Prairie had already qualified for the Sub-State 3 finals.
“Had we lost on Saturday,” said Magstadt, “Edina and Chanhassen would have played in front of us on Sunday. We would have faced the winner in the title game.”
That changed when Eden Prairie defeated Chanhassen. Instead of a three-team race, the field shrunk to two.
“Eden Prairie and Edina,” said Magstadt, “and they had to beat us twice.”
In the first game on Sunday, Edina defeated Eden Prairie 10-0.
Note: Eden Prairie trailed 1-0 in the fourth inning.
“We took a different turn,” said Magstadt. “Early in the week, we pitched it well, but weren’t very good offensively. On the weekend, we didn’t pitch very well.
“Some of our guys may have been a little overused,” he said, adding that starter Tyson Stritesky missed the tournament because of an injury. “Defensively, we weren’t very good.”
Eden Prairie lost the game and its momentum.
“It wasn’t just the loss,” said Magstadt, “it was was how we lost.”
Had this been a the high school section tournament, the two teams would have played the second game on a second day.
“The Legion schedule is a little different,” said the coach.
On Sunday, the second game, with the winner advancing to the state tournament, was played right after the first.
Edina beat Eden Prairie 10-5.
Edina was leading 6-0 before Eden Prairie scored its first run.
“They were better than us,” said Magstadt. “Offensively, we didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
The loss pinned Eden Prairie on a 19-12 season.
If playing in the state tournament is a task the Eden Prairie Legion program had put on its to-do list, developing players was at the top.
“When you pick your players, you envision their roles,” said Magstadt. “That being said, I’m not sure anyone would have envisioned some the big roles and big spots some of younger kids were asked to fill.
“For some of the guys, this (Legion ball) was their first varsity-level experience,” he added, “and they were thrown into the fire.”
He then mentions Taylor Chase, Tyson Sirek, Joey Cornelius and Danny Pahl.
At the other end of the spectrum was Eden Prairie’s veterans, players who had two and three years of varsity experience under their belts — Ben Shepard, Joey Danielson, Jordan Amundson, Tyson Stritesky ...
“We had guys who had given a lot to our program,” said Magstadt.
And now they’re moving on and the younger guys are moving up.
“Being in a good spot doesn’t mean there’s guarantees,” said the coach. “There’s still work to do. It starts this fall and leads into next spring.”