GIANT SLAYERS! Jaguar baseball knocks off No. 1 seed to open state
June 15, 2023
After winning three of their five Section 6A games by just one run, the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa baseball team continued their improbable playoff run with yet another one-run win. This time that win came on the biggest stage they've played on yet: Class 1A state playoffs at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud.
After coming back from a 1-0 deficit with two runs scored in the top of the fourth, the Jaguars shocked No. 1-seeded and state tournament veteran South Ridge in a 2-1 regulation-innings win on Tuesday, June 13.
The Panthers were playing in their fifth straight state tournament and were determined to improve on an 0-2 record at state last year. Instead of a Final Four berth, South Ridge moves to the consolation bracket with a 22-5 record.
The Jaguars took a 14-11 record into the state Final Four, which took place on Wednesday back in St. Cloud. Further tournament updates have been posted at the Jaguars Sports blog and at The Voice website.
As they continue to make history at B-B-E, the Jaguars ruined the Panthers' hopes of a first-round win with a gritty defensive performance. It was one for the ages, including an incredible complete-game performance by starter Tanner Shelton. His pitching line was outstanding: 30 batters faced, 9 hits scattered, no earned runs, two walks and five strikeouts on a total of 108 pitches.
Shelton and his defense worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth inning when the one-run lead became tenous. The icing on the cake came when Shelton struck out the final batter faced on the day to end the game.
B-B-E built the 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth inning on a two-RBI double by No. 9 batter Ryan Jensen. His knock deep to right field scored both courtesy runner Owen Paulson and then Casey Lenarz for the game-winner.
Knowing they had to keep a firm grip on the base paths, B-B-E's defense rose to the occasion and did not allow one stolen base. While playing error-free once they had the lead, the Jaguars also took advantage of numerous South Ridge baserunning miscues. The biggest came in the bottom of the seventh with the tying run at second.
With one out and Sheen Ralidak on second, Tanner Shelton put into motion what B-B-E's playbook dubbed the "Pierz pick off play" - a play that assistant coach Pat Illies mentioned to head coach Ben Klaphake a couple innings earlier.
"Coach Illies said that if they got a runner to second at a big moment, we had to run that pick off play," said Coach Klaphake.
"He reviewed the play in the dugout with the guys who would be involved in it. It's a play we've always had in the playbook, but it requires perfect timing. With this crazy spring we've had, we never got a chance to try it in practice. Credit to our guys, it worked to perfection."
Shelton faked a throw to second, and both middle infielders (shortstop Luke Illies and second baseman Brett DeRoo) dove and panicked to sell that the ball went to center field. Ralidak paused for a split second and then sped off a few steps to third before Shelton followed through with a pickoff throw to Illies.
With a deer-in-the-headlights look, Ralidak froze, ran back towards second before bolting off to third, where Luke Dingmann caught the ball from Illies and tagged him for the second out.
Now instead of having a runner at third with one out, the Panthers were sitting with no base runners and the tying run coming to the plate. Shelton then fired his fifth strikeout of the game to put the win in the book.
"It's one we will never forget," said Klaphake about that inning. "Coach Illies walked over the fine details, but it was up to the players to sell it on the field, which they did so well. That's why this is such a beautiful game. Those momentum plays are huge."