St. Michael-Albertville skipper Paul Schumm has seen a lot in his year as the leader of the Knights’ baseball team. There have been heartbreaking losses in section play, a surprise run to the State Championship in “big school” tournament action back in 2009, and about anything you could ever imagine happening on a baseball field.
But the extra grey hair Schumm is sporting this week in St. Paul is thanks, in large part, not to age, but to this 2015 STMA baseball team.
After earning the No. 1 seed in Section 8-3A play, the Knights pounded out a tournament win over Becker, pitting them against Brainerd in the semifinals. It would be the first of three meetings between the two clubs.
And while the semis would go the way of the Warriors, it started an incredible journey for the Knights, who would be sent home with another loss.
“They simply refuse to die,” said one fan at the Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud’s MAC sports complex last week. “It’s incredible.”
The road back to a shot at state started against Moorhead, and it was if the Knights were mad about losing in the semifinals, and took it out on the Spuds. STMA scored 10 runs in the second and third innings, and Tyler Berg pitched four scoreless innings and struck out six in the win.
Next was Becker, again. STMA scored 9, to make it 19 straight runs without a response from the other squad, and held off a Bulldog rally in the top of the seventh to win handily, 9-5. Berg, again, got the win, and Jordan Joseph continued his hot tournament in the contest.
In the Section Final play-in game, STMA took on Alexandria, and pulled out a 7-3 win, again behind Joseph, who knocked in two runs. Travis Brown went the distance on the mound, and the Knights earned a rematch with the Warriors – though they’d have to win twice to make state for the first time since that miracle run in ’09.
In the first game, the story will always be Joseph’s performance on the mound. The senior – who is headed to Minnesota next season – went the full seven, and then two more, and gave up just a single run on nine hits.
In extra innings, the Knights, who were the higher seed and earned the home at-bat, earned the win when Berg reached in the bottom of the ninth on a single. Jaylen Hakes moved Hollister to second with a sacrifice bunt, and Tyler Hollister came through in the clutch, hitting a single that was deep enough to score Berg from second.
The second game of the Section 8 Championship was another duel, but Brainerd looked like it was sailing to St. Paul early, putting up three runs and hanging on until the bottom of the fifth.
In that inning, the Knights broke through thanks to a Warrior error, allowing Hollister to reach. The Knights would then add a pair of singles and take advantage of another error to add one more run, and get another on an RBI single by Joseph, closing the gap to 3-2.
It would stay that way until the bottom of the seventh, as Berg pitched another gem, striking out three.
The dramatics would come in the top of the seventh, actually. Brainerd, trying to add some insurance to its lead, sent a runner home with two outs. Jack Kelly, behind the plate, stood strong, and got the third out to kill in the inning.
In the bottom half, a lead-off hit by Jake Bloomstrand was followed by a Hunter Wilcox walk. With no outs, Jake Brown dropped a sac bunt to put runners at second and third with two outs remaining.
Brainerd would get a much-needed second out, and the Knights were down to their last three strikes. But the Warriors weren’t messing with Joseph, who was intentionally walked to load the bases.
That put the game in Berg’s hands, and the big man delivered with a double, bringing home Bloomstrand with the tying run and Wilcox to win the game, sending STMA to state.
STMA takes on Chanhassen in the afternoon session of the State 3A Championship, played at the St. Paul Saints’ CHS Field in St. Paul. The winner will advance to the semifinal at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at CHS Field, while the loser will play in the consolation round, held at the Siebert Baseball Facility on U of M Campus.
The State 3A Championship is Monday, June 15 at 6 p.m. at Target Field in Minneapolis.