ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The South Ridge High School baseball team came up with one two-out rally in extra innings, but could not come up with another one.
Fifth-seeded Springfield scored five runs in the top of the 10th inning to beat fourth-seeded South Ridge 8-3 in the Class A state baseball quarterfinals on Tuesday at Joe Faber Field. The Tigers (19-7) play top-seeded Hayfield (24-0) at noon Wednesday in the semifinals. Hayfield beat Adrian-Ellsworth 16-1 in five innings in the quarterfinals.
"They just played a little bit better than us," South Ridge coach Aaron Weber said. "They got the big hit at the right time. We've been getting that big hit all year and today we didn't."
"That was probably the best game we had all season," Panthers senior center fielder Connor Bushbaum said. "That's what you love to see in a baseball game, battling back throughout the game and each team fought. Sometimes, it just takes that one inning and that's baseball."
South Ridge, which was making its third straight state tournament appearance, finishes the season 21-4 in its first season under Weber. But the Panthers showed some perseverance throughout the game, including scoring twice with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game 3-3.
In the top of the ninth, Springfield designated hitter Jason Berberich was credited with a one-out RBI infield single. Berberich hit a short roller up the first base line that catcher Wyatt Olson fielded and threw to first base. As he did, pinch runner Luke Boyle headed home from third base and narrowly slid under a tag at the plate. Berberich was also declared safe at first on the play, eventually stole second and scored on a two-out single by Jakob Nachreiner to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead.
South Ridge, though, had an unusual rally in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game. With one out, second baseman Kaden Lane hit a pop fly behind the mound that the Springfield second baseman and shortstop lost in the sun and fell in for a single. Then Jakson Bennett blooped a single into center field to put runners on first and second.
With two outs, Bushbaum singled to left field to knock in Lane and advance Bennett to third. Aaron Bennett followed with a run-scoring single to right field to tie the game 3-3.
"Once we got down by two (runs), I think we all knew we had some momentum coming in," said Bushbaum, whose team had four of its eight hits in the ninth inning. "Once we got that first baserunner on, we just all knew we were going to rally back."
Springfield, playing in its first state tournament since 2016, answered with five runs on three hits and two walks in the top of the 10th to take control. Berberich had the big hit in the inning with a three-run triple to right field and South Ridge went down in order in the bottom of the inning to end the game.
"We fought, won the Polar Conference for the first time and how this game ended doesn't change our season," Weber said. "We fought and it just didn't end up working today."
Jakson Bennett's gem
South Ridge starting pitcher Jakson Bennett ended up getting a no decision in the game, but pitched a gem.
Bennett, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander, did not allow a hit to the first 18 batters he faced. His no-hit bid ended when Dylan Batzlaff had a two-out RBI single to center in the top of the sixth that tied the game at 1-1. The junior gave up three hits, struck out 14, walked two and gave up one earned run in eight innings with a fastball and curveball.
He was taken out of the game after the eighth after throwing 114 pitches, including 75 for strikes. Pitchers in the playoffs are allowed to throw 115 pitches in Minnesota.
"I think I could have gone more," Bennett said of how he was feeling after eight innings. "I was really feeling it."
Bennett, who has been on the varsity since eighth grade, pitched out of tough jams in each of his last three innings. After Batzlaff's RBI single, he hit Tori Helget before striking out Brendon Buerkle, Springfield's No. 3 hitter in the lineup, to end the sixth.
"I think I was on right from the start," Bennett said. "I just tried to hit the (strike) zone, rely on our defense and got through it.
"I just take a deep breath before I pitch, calm myself, zone out everyone yelling and try to hit the (strike) zone."
In the seventh, Berberich tripled to right-center with one out, but Bennett got the next two batters he faced to keep the game tied.
In the eighth, Batzlaff had a two-out double, but he struck out Helget to end the threat.
"He's been doing that all season and I think it's been a little underlooked," said Bushbaum, who will play baseball at Minnesota-Crookston next season. "That kid can dice. We see it every day in practice. He's next level. I'm just happy I get to watch it every day in practice.
"He can throw very hard and has very good command. He's probably the most mentally tough person I've met. He's been doing this since eighth grade, getting us out of jams ... the same thing you saw there, we saw that in eighth grade."
Bushbaum, who was 3-for-5 with a double, and starting third baseman Jackson O'Bey were the two seniors on the roster for the Panthers.
Springfield 8, South Ridge 3 (10 innings)
Springfield — WP: Tori Helget 4.2IP, 2ER, 4H, 5K, 2BB. Dylan Batzlaff 2-3 2B R RBI, Tori Helget 1-3 R, Brendon Buerkle 2-5 2B R RBI, Jason Berberich 3-5 3B-2 RBI-4, Kyle Quesenberry RBI, Jakob Nachreiner 1-3 RBI.
South Ridge — LP: Aaron Bennett 1.1IP, 5H, 5ER, 2K, 1BB. Jaxson Bennett 1-5 R, Connor Bushbaum 3-5 2B R RBI, A. Bennett 2-5 RBI-2, Carter Anderson 1-4, Kaden Lane 1-4 R.