The St. Benedict Saints continued defying the odds and qualified for the 2019 Class C State Amateur Baseball Tournament with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Faribault on Friday.
Tanner Oakes delivered perhaps the best pitching performance in the storied history of St. Benedict baseball.
Oakes, on just two days rest, went eight plus innings baffling Lakers batters striking out 13 hitters and walking none.
“He was supposed to pitch two or three innings,” manager Wade Olsen said. “We wanted him to start it, give us what he could, hopefully we had a lead when he left and we could find a way to hang on. That was the plan.”
But Oakes kept going, and going, and going. The offense pushed across a run in both the second and seventh innings.
Nick Heitkamp and Zach Bakko singled consecutively in the second. Heitkamp came home on Carter Johnson’s sacrifice fly.
In the seventh, Mitchell Martin singled, advanced to second on a passed ball, and scored on Nick Heitkamp’s RBI single.
Nick Heitkamp has been another story of the playoffs, continuing to deliver at crunch time.
“He’s just locked in,” Olsen said. “This is the best he’s hit in his Benny career.”
Oakes relinquished the ball up 2-0 heading into the eighth inning.
After two guys were out, Faribault’s top of the order singled back-to-back which brought up the Lakers best hitter in Matt Lane. Oakes reinserted himself back in the game. After Lane singled, Oakes struck out Joey Grote to end the rally.
Ahead 2-1 in the ninth inning, Faribault used a single and Saints error to put the tying run on third base with one out. Oakes struck out the following two hitters to end the game and ignite a wild celebration.
“He’s unbelieveable,” Olsen said. “Our team is unbelievable. I couldn’t be any more proud to be associated with this group.”
The Faribault game could not have happened without a big rally in the previous game.
Trailing 4-0 against New Prague in an elimination game, the Saints stormed back scoring eight runs in the next three innings in an 8-6 victory.
Carter Johnson had a bases-clearing single in the fifth inning and raced home two batters later on a squeeze bunt from Jeremy Heitkamp.
Carter Hodapp and Ryan Gale’s base running led to two more runs to push the lead to 6-4. Jeremy Heitkamp and Tanner Oakes singled in the seventh aiding to the final two runs.
Oakes went six innings giving up four unearned runs. Trey Kocher earned the save getting the final nine outs.
St. Benedict won a seeding game Sunday in Prior Lake smashing out 20 hits in a 17-4 win.
Jeremy Heitkamp, Wade Olsen, Mitchell Martin, Carter Johnson, and Nick Heitkamp all had three hits. Jon Huss had two hits and scored three runs. Cole Minnick was the winning pitcher. Matthias Duevel was dominant in relief striking out five of his six outs.
St. Benedict has to play another seeding game against St. Patrick on Wednesday, Aug. 7. The state tournament this year is in Maple Lake and Delano and the Saints will play an opening round game either Sug. 16, 17, or 18.
This is only the fourth time the Saints have qualified for state and the first time since 2016. They also qualified in 2013 and 2014.
Olsen finished with this to say on the playoff run.
“We played in four elimination games,” he said. “We were down 9-3 in the fourth, 3-2 in the ninth, 4-0 in the fifth, and had to beat Matt Lane in Faribault. And we won all four. Resilient is an understatement. We passed resilient a long time ago.”
St. Benedict is 16-14 on the season.