South Ridge fights way to consolation title
June 16, 2023
It took three games against Cherry in the section tournament, but the South Ridge Panthers got the wins when it counted, and entered the Minnesota State Class A baseball tournament as the top seed Tuesday. Playing at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud, the Section 7A champs struggled on the base paths in their opening game against Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and fell by a 2-1 score.
The team rebounded in the consolation bracket Wednesday, pounding Legacy Christian Academy 12-2 and taking the consolation title with a 5-1 win over Yellow Medicine East. Ninth-grader Ben Pretasky had a two-hit complete game in the championship.
The Panthers gained the first lead of the game in the tournament opener when Gavin Willeck reached on an error in the third inning and went to second on a passed ball. Willeck advanced on a groundout and came home on a Christian Pretasky single.
"Pretasky had a great game all the way around," said Panthers coach Aaron Weber. "The only out he made was his first at bat in the first inning when he hit the ball 365 feet to the wall and they caught it."
Pretasky was 3-for-4 at the plate for the Panthers.
That 1-0 lead held until the top of the fourth when the Jaguars got two runners on base with their No. 9 batter, Ryan Jensen, at the plate. Jensen promptly delivered a double - one of only three hits in the game - to score both runners and give Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa the 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Panthers looked like they would answer quickly as they got two runners on base, but the Jaguars were able to get out of trouble, and kept the lead.
The scenario that played out in the bottom of the fourth also played out in the fifth and sixth innings, with the Panthers getting two runners on base, only to have the Jaguars pull a Houdini act and get out unscathed.
Christian Pretasky kept the Panthers in the game by tossing a 3-hit gem along with six strikeouts. He had the Jaguars guessing the whole game.
"That's the best game he's ever pitched," Weber said. "He kept them off balance and he controlled things from the mound. We needed to play a little better defense behind him and that cost us a bit as well, but that's baseball."
Trailing by a run in the bottom of the seventh, Christian Pretasky singled to reach first and was replaced by courtesy runner Sheen Ralidak, who was sacrifice-bunted to second by Ben Pretasky. With one out, the Jaguars attempted a pickoff of Ralidak. The ball deflected off the shortstop's glove. At that point Ralidak lost sight of the ball and bolted towards third base, only to be caught in a rundown. The game ended when the Jaguars were able to strike out Wyatt Olson, which sent Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa to the semifinals and South Ridge into the consolation bracket.
"Our baseball I.Q. needed to be better today," Weber said. "We got on twice and the very next pitch we got picked off, and that changes everything. They didn't make those mistakes. They are a good team, but we got the No. 1 seed for a reason, and that's because we are a good team as well."
South Ridge also left eight runners on base and despite outhitting the Jaguars 9-3 for the game, fell by a 2-1 score.
"This one will hurt. We'll find out on Wednesday who wants to play and who can finish after a tough game like this one," Weber said after the game. "We didn't play horrible, we just didn't get the big hit when we needed it or the big play, but that's the difference when you get to the state tournament."
Lesson learned, the team made sure it didn't make any game-losing mistakes again by sweeping the consolation