By Chad Koenen
If you felt an earthquake about 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday it likely came from St. Cloud as Bren Salo earned a bases loaded walk to tie New York Mills’ Class A state semi-final game against Randolph at 4-4 in the bottom of the 12th inning. As the fourth ball was called, with two outs and a full count nonetheless, a few hundred NY Mills fans lept to their feet and let out a roar that could very well have registered on Richter scale.
The walk capped an unbelievable 12th inning that saw Randolph take a 4-1 lead in the top half of the inning when Nathan Weckop hit a 3-run home run with two outs to take what appeared to be an insurmountable hurdle for the Eagles to get over, considering the two teams combined for just 2 runs for the first 11 innings of the game.
However, the Eagles worked back into the game to send the thrilling state semi-final game into a 13th inning. Derin Gaudette and Abe Carlson led off the inning, but were retired in order.
Down to their final out, Drey Roberts hit a single to left field, Brayden Ehnert reached on an error by the third baseman and Cody Barthel singled to left field to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs. Cale Rudolph then followed with a bases loaded single to bring Roberts across the plate to make the score 4-2 in favor of Randolph.
That’s when fate seemed to continue to be on the Eagles’ side as Jace Rudolph reached on another throwing error that brought Roberts across the plate, before Salo earned NY Mills’ all important bases loaded walk to bring Barthel across the plate to cause the NY Mills faithful to jump to their feet as the game was tied at 4-4. Johnson then grounded out on the right side of the infield to end the two out rally, but not before forcing a 13th inning.
After a scoreless 13th inning, Randolph looked to grab control of the game for the final time as they scored 4 runs in the top of the 14th inning (or essentially the seventh inning of the second game).
Ehnert led off the bottom of the 14th inning with a single to center field, before Barthel secured a walk. Cale Rudolph secured a single to load the bases up for his twin brother Jace Rudolph with nobody out. Jace Rudolph then came through with a hit of a lifetime as he laced a double over the left fielder’s head to bring 3 runs across the plate. He advanced to third base on a throwing error, when the relay throw in from left field hit his brother Cale in the back as he fell and tried to score on the hit, to leave the game tying run to just 90 feet from home. He didn’t stay there long as he scored the game tying run during the next at bat on a wild pitch to make the game 8-8.
The next two hitters were retired in order, before Gaudette hit a double down the line. Abe Carlson was intentionally walked to bring Roberts to the plate with two outs. He flied out to second base to end the inning, but not before the bottom of the Eagles’ line up came through with a dramatic comeback for the second time in just three innings.
Randolph stranded a runner on first base in the top of the 15th inning to leave the score at 8-8.
Just as they had the last time it came up to the plate, the bottom of the Eagles’ order came through in a big way as Ehnert led off the inning with a double in left center field. Barthel popped out trying to bunt for the first out of the inning and Cale Rudolph popped out to the second baseman.
For the second time in as many at bats, Jace Rudolph came through in a big way for the Eagles as he hit a single that fell in front of the left fielder to bring Ehnert home from second base to give the Eagles a 9-8 win and a spot in the state championship game.
Derin Gaudette started the game on the mound as he was brilliant as he pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up just 4 hits, struck out 9 hitters and gave up just 1 unearned run. Johnson took over in relief and gave up 7 runs, 6 of which were earned, while giving up 7 hits and 4 walks.
Abe Carlson was the third Eagle pitcher to take the mound as he secured the win by pitching the final 1 2/3 innings and gave up just 1 hit, 1 walk and struck out 1 hitter.
Jace Rudolph had the game of a lifetime as the senior went 2-6 with both hits coming in the 14th and 16th innings. He finished with 4 RBIs. Cale Rudolph went 2-8, while Johnson, Gaudette and Ehnert all finished with 2 hits apiece.
The game was the longest game in the history of the Minnesota State High School League state tournament at 15 innings.
AB R H BI
Bren Salo 3 1 0 1
Jonah Johnson 7 0 2 1
Derin Gaudette 8 0 2 1
Abe Carlson 6 0 1 0
Drey Roberts 6 1 1 0
Jonah Ruther 0 0 0 0
Brayden Ehnert 6 3 2 0
Monte Briard 3 0 0 0
Lucas Grabow 1 0 0 0
Cody Barthel 3 2 1 0
Cale Rudolph 8 1 2 1
Jace Rudolph 6 1 2 4
HITTING- 2B- Gaudette (2), Ehner, J.Rudolph; 3B- Johnson
PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-k)- Derin Gaudette 6 2/3-4-1-0-3-9, Jonah Johnson 6 2/3-7-7-6-4-3, Abe Carlson 1 2/3-1-0-0-1-1