NO. 1 DULUTH MARSHALL (25-1) VS. NO. 2 MINNEHAHA ACADEMY (20-4)
What: Class AA championship
When: 1 p.m. Thursday
Where: Target Field, Minneapolis
Outlook: The Hilltoppers are back in the Class AA championship game for the second consecutive season after losing 8-4 to Maple Lake. According to senior catcher Carter Sullivan, last year the focus was on experiencing an MLB ballpark such as Target Field. That’s now behind the Hilltoppers, who are more focused on winning their first state championship. They’ll throw ace Ben Pedersen, the Missouri recruit and 38th-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles. A year ago, the Hilltoppers couldn’t throw Pedersen in the state title game because the quarterfinals, semifinals and final were crammed into three straight days. This year the championship game is a week later, allowing teams like Marshall to go back to Pedersen (1.24 ERA in 56 1/3 innings). Tyler Johnson has driven in a team-leading 36 runs to go with his 36 hits while shortstop Peter Hansen has driven in 27 runs with his team-high 39 hits. … Minnehaha Academy, which breezed through the state quarterfinals and semifinals with a 12-5 win over La Crescent-Hokah and 9-1 win over St. Peter, is the only team to beat the Hilltoppers this season. On April 20, the RedHawks scored three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to beat Marshall 5-4 in St. Paul. Pedersen gave up two runs off five hits with 10 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision. Redhawks’ ace Brock Brumley surrendered four runs — three earned — off seven hits with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Brumley (1.59 ERA in 58 1/3 innings) was roughed up in the quarterfinals by giving up five runs and eight hits with six strikeouts. Noah Dehne (.358 batting average, 24 RBIs, four home runs) is Minnehaha’s top hitter. He had two hits, including a homer, and three RBIs in April against Marshall.
Quote: “What it sets up is what I think everyone would want, which is the two best teams in AA, and maybe more than AA, getting to play each other with all their best players at their best positions on the best field in the state. Last year, we thought our depth would give us a chance to win the state tournament and the way the games played out kind of shook out for Maple Lake. This year we know you do anything in your power to win two games, then you're going to get to reset against another great team that's going to do the same thing.” -- Marshall coach Joe Wicklund