New York Mills takes second at state for second straight season
Sports | Published on June 24, 2021 at 11:13am GMT+0000 | Author: Chad Koenen0
By Chad Koenen
Thirty years from now very few people outside of Hayfield, Minn. will be able to tell you who won the 2021 Class A state baseball tournament. Ask a person who played in the longest, and perhaps, greatest game ever played in the Class A state tournament, and chances are people will remember the state semi-finals game between NY Mills Eagles and the Randolph Rockets on Wednesday, June 16 at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud, Minn.
That’s because the Rockets and Eagles played a 15 inning game that featured as many ups and downs as the mountains in Colorado, or as many twists and turns as the latest reality show on TV. After being down to their final out with the bases loaded, the Eagles tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the 12th inning, before once again tying the game with a dramatic 4-run bottom of the 14th inning to stave off elimination and keep their hopes for a state championship alive. Then in the 15th inning, the Eagles etched their name in the history books when Jace Rudolph hit an RBI single to bring Brayden Ehnert across the plate from third base to give NY Mills a dramatic 9-8 win over previously unbeaten Randolph.
The game was the longest in state tournament history and garnered the attention of people from across the state and upper Midwest. While the Eagles came up just short in their bid for a state title, it didn’t come without a memorable season that will go down in folklore in the storied history of Eagles’ baseball.
NY Mills opened its season with nine straight wins, including a 17-0 trouncing of Sebeka on April 27 and an 11-4 win over Wadena-Deer Creek on May 4. Both teams eventually qualified for the Class A and Class AA state tournament.
The Eagles suffered their first loss on May 6 when they fell to Brandon-Evansville by a score of 12-4. They won four more games in a row before suffering their final loss of the season, until the championship game, in a 2-1 game to Wadena-Deer Creek in eight innings on May 14.
NY Mills won its final four games of the season by a 32-4 margin and entered the post season with quite a bit of momentum on its side. It would need that momentum as the Eagles were in a section that featured four teams ranked in the top 10 in the QRF rankings. Any of the four teams would have been one of the likely favorites to win just about any other section in the state—outside of Section 6A.
The Eagles opened the section tournament with a bye, before defeating Browerville-Eagle Valley by a score of 12-2. Waiting in the wings was Ashby, a team that entered the section tournament with a 19-1 record and didn’t lose a game until just one week before the section tournament began.
In front of their home crowd, NY Mills and Bluffton hosted the section tournament, the Eagles came through with a 5-4 win in eight innings to advance to the Section 6A winners bracket championship game.
In another game against two of the top ranked teams in the state, the Eagles scored early and held on thanks to a dominant pitching performance from Derin Gaudette. The Eagles went on to defeat previously unbeaten Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg by a score of 2-1 to advance to the section championship game later in the week in NY Mills.
The Eagles were able to secure their second straight win over Ashby in just one week, as they defeated the Arrows by a score of 6-3 to win their second straight section title in front of their home fans.
In the opening round of the state tournament the Eagles found themselves in front of a familiar opponent in Sebeka. NY Mills used a big 9 run inning to blow past the Trojans by a score of 11-4, which set up the unforgettable game against Randolph just one day later.
Unfortunately, the Eagles couldn’t replicate the magic from their game against the Rockets and fell to the Vikings by a score of 7-4 at Target Field. So, for the second straight season, the Eagles finished as the runner up at the state baseball tournament (the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). It’s a feat not easily duplicated in today’s world of pitch counts and athletes specializing in just a few sports. Add to the fact the schedule the Eagles played, and the championship game was definitely earned by the 2021 NY Mills baseball team.
In addition to NY Mills and Sebeka, Wadena-Deer Creek advanced to state in Class AA. They lost in the opening round of state, but were seeded fourth in the Class AA tournament. The Eagles not only won a brutal Section 6A, but they also won the Park Region Conference title and lost just two games outside of the championship game at Target Field.
The 2021 Eagles featured a number of underclassmen who made an impact on the varsity level this season, next year’s team will have some big holes to fill from the seven seniors that were on this year’s team. Many of the seniors have had an impact on the varsity level for a number of years now, but just as they have had to do in the past, NY Mills will look to retool, rebuild and reload for next year.