Woodbury Blue strides into playoffs with walk-off win
As his Woodbury Blue legion squad trotted into the dugout trailing St. Paul Park 4-2 at the conclusion of the top of the fifth inning, coach Kyle Hunt had a brief message for his team.
“This is the last inning,” he said. “We have to score.”
Woodbury Blue tallied three runs, all with two outs, in the final frame to rally for the 5-4 victory on Thursday at Woodbury High School.
Hunt said his team scares him at times with its slow starts, but he’s seen the comebacks become a trend to the point where it’s almost expected.
“I can’t talk well enough about this group of kids,” he said. “I don’t know how it could get any better. That’s what makes it awesome. … They look like they’re dead for three innings and they can still come back like it’s nothing.”
Dead, but not discouraged. There was no sense of panic from the Woodbury Blue dugout throughout the game, despite the deficit -- which loomed as large as 4-0 in the third inning.
“We try to stay positive no matter what,” Jordan Wilkerson said. “So when we get down like that, we really don’t get down on ourselves. We just try to do our best.”
The deficit was cut to 4-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth. And with two runners on and two outs, Wilkerson stepped up to the plate.
Wilkerson felt obligated to come through, as before he entered the batter’s box, he had a conversation with teammate Brady Mundahl’s father.
“He asked if I was going to get a big hit, and I told him I would,” he said.
That’s just what he did.
Wilkerson delivered a double to the left-centerfield gap to knock in both runs and tie the game.
Next up in the order was Jack Kohlbeck. Kohlbeck said he wanted to reward Wilkerson for his hit by sending him home for the game-winning run.
He cracked a single that allowed him to do just that, which gave Woodbury Blue the victory.
“You sit there for four innings and you’re thinking, ‘wow, we can’t hit slow pitching very well,’” Hunt said. “But they figured it out in the last inning and we walked away with a win. I think it shocked everybody that it was just over.”
Hunt, a 2009 Woodbury High School grad, said the big rivalry when he was in school was with Park, so he’s always happy to top the Parkers.
“Never once do I want to lose to that team,” he said. “Deep down inside, it’s good to know I can still beat Park.”
The win also kept up Woodbury Blue’s momentum heading into the playoffs. Thursday night’s contest was the last regular season game before the district playoffs seeding meeting, meaning Woodbury Blue won’t play again for roughly a week. That’s a welcomed break for a squad that just played nine games in seven days.
“That’s nice, because we’re sore and our arms hurt,” Wilkerson said. “But I think we’ll be ready.”
Ready to make a deep run at a state tournament bid.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Kohlbeck said. “We think that we’re the top dogs here, so we’d love to win in the playoffs and go to the legion state. That’d be awesome.”