Royals cap remarkable playoff run with state berth

Watertown-Mayer captains Matt Elsenpeter, left, and Nick Tschida celebrate with the Section 2AA championship trophy last Thursday night in Belle Plaine after the Royals clinched a spot in the state tournament with two consecutive wins over Belle Plaine.

Watertown-Mayer captains Matt Elsenpeter, left, and Nick Tschida celebrate with the Section 2AA championship trophy last Thursday night in Belle Plaine after the Royals clinched a spot in the state tournament with two consecutive wins over St. Peter.

The Watertown-Mayer baseball team is headed to the state tournament for the first time in school history after stunning St. Peter with a pair of victories Thursday night in the Section 2AA championship games in Belle Plaine.

St. Peter, which had not lost yet in the section tournament, needed to win just once in order to advance to the state tournament. Watertown-Mayer, which lost its first playoff game more than a week ago against Holy Family, needed to beat St. Peter twice in a row in order to earn the state bid.

Trailing 2-1 and down to their final out in Game 1, it didn’t look promising for the Royals. But then again, things didn’t look too promising after last week’s loss to top-seeded Holy Family, which left the Royals needing to win six consecutive games to advance to state.

But in the most improbable fashion, the Royals did just that. Thanks to what could probably best be described as a St. Peter meltdown in the top of the seventh inning of Game 1, when the Saints made three critical errors, the Royals scored four runs to take a stunning 5-2 win.

And in Game 2, the Royals let a 4-2 lead slip away in the late innings, only to rally to win in extra innings. This time, an error on the St. Peter left fielder on a Brendan Weege single helped Matt Elsenpeter score from first base to take a 5-4 lead, and the Royals tacked on one more insurance run for good measure.

Elsenpeter started the winning rally with a single, his fourth consecutive hit in a 4-for-5 performance from the right side of the plate. In the first game, hitting from the left side, he went 3-for-4 and had the clutch, two-out, game-tying RBI single in the top of the seventh. Overall, Elsenpeter was 7-for-9 on the day with four RBIs.

The Royals may not even have had a chance to win Game 1 if not for a gutsy pitching performance from Michael Herd. Two days after throwing a complete-game one-hitter against Holy Family, he pitched 2.2 perfect innings in relief to pick up his second win in three days. He entered the game in the fourth with a runner on third and one out, but a strikeout and a groundout to get out of the inning. He retired all eight batters he faced before giving way to Elsenpeter, who picked up the save.

Look for much more coverage of the Royals’ remarkable playoff run in next week’s edition of the Carver County News.

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