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Brady Gunderson slides in safely during Woodbury Area Legion’s 5-4 win over Oakdale Legion on Tuesday at Tartan High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)

Woodbury Area rallies past Tartan, races home for All-Star game

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Woodbury Area rallies past Tartan, races home for All-Star game
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

John Horner wasn’t supposed to throw Tuesday night.

He was supposed to start on the hill Wednesday, instead.

But after Woodbury Area Legion fell behind 4-1 in the second inning, coach Brian Palkovich decided he needed his ace in relief.

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“John’s always been the guy you go to,” Palkovich said. “He went right in there and I didn’t have to worry about it after that.”

Horner posted five straight zeros as Woodbury Area rallied back for a 5-4 win over Oakdale legion at Tartan High School.

“I got in my rhythm finally toward the end,” Horner said.

The one-run win was a change of fortune for Woodbury Area, who lost two bouts by the same differential to St. Paul Park on Sunday.

It looked like Woodbury Area was heading toward a similar fate Tuesday down 4-3 heading into the seventh. But a two-run rally put it over the top.

“I need heart pills,” Palkovich said. “I wish we could have had one of those [innings] on Sunday.”

The comeback was far from unexpected from Woodbury Area, which is primarily made up of New Life Academy players. New Life made a living coming back from early deficits throughout their run to the Class A state title in June. Now Woodbury Area seems to be picking up a similar style.

“These guys have been behind a few times this year,” Palkovich said. “I always tell them you can decide if you’re behind or you’re losing. They’re just behind. We were behind because we made some errors early and didn’t execute some at-bats like we were supposed to. … It just worked out in our favor at the end. That’s what happens when you hang in there.”

Horner closed out the game in the bottom of the seventh, but not without a little drama.

After seamlessly recording the first two outs, Horner walked a batter. The next hitter popped up to right, and it appeared as though the ball was caught, but the umpire ruled it was dropped, which led to a lengthy discussion between the two umps.

That’s when Sam Mazon yelled from out in centerfield.

“I want to watch the All-Star game,” he called out.

He shrugged as all of his teammates looked back at him and shook their heads.

“I think we’re all in mutual agreement,” he said.

They were.

The ruling stuck as a hit, but two batters later Horner struck out an Oakdale hitter to end the game with the bases loaded. Like Mazon, he wanted to catch as much of the Mid-Summer Classic as possible.

“I was just going to try to throw harder to get that kid out really quick,” Horner said. “I wanted to watch the All Star game. I didn’t want it to go into extra innings.”

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