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East Ridge slips past Woodbury, advances to section final

Junior Samuel Kastner slides in safely for an East Ridge run in the fourth inning of a 6-5 win over Woodbury at Midway Stadium in a Section 4AAA semifinal on Monday. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)

Though East Ridge reigns as the 2014 Suburban East Conference champ, the Raptors were swept by cross-town rival Woodbury during the regular season.

East Ridge got its redemption on Monday afternoon at Midway Stadium.

The Raptors beat Woodbury 6-5 in the section semifinal to end the Royals season and advance East Ridge to the Section 4AAA championship, where it will have to defeat top-seeded Mahtomedi twice to earn a trip to state.

“We wanted this game so bad,” junior Sam Kastner said. “Everyone just came out swinging.”

Kastner said the team was angry following an 8-4 loss to Mahtomedi earlier in the day, which dropped the Raptors to the lower bracket.

East Ridge took out its frustrations on the Woodbury pitching staff in the fourth inning.

The Raptors stitched together hit-after-hit en route to a five-run fourth inning, capped by a RBI double from junior Connor Lejcher which built the East Ridge lead to 6-0.

“A guy gets on base and everyone in the dugout just goes nuts on the bench,” Kastner said. “We’re out here running the bases hard and it’s just fun. Everything just carries on, one after another.”

That looked to be plenty of run support the way senior Drew Molin was rolling on the mound for East Ridge.

But, as they’ve done all season, the Royals worked their way back.

Woodbury notched runs in the fourth and fifth innings to close the deficit to 6-2.

In the bottom of the seventh, Royals senior Nick Yochum laced a two-out single to right to knock in a run and tighten the once massive deficit to 6-5.

“That’s what we’ve done all year,” Royals coach Kevin McDermott said. “We’ve been really resilient. We’ve got great leadership and kids that don’t quit. I love that resiliency about our kids. We compete and we’re not going to give up.”

But Raptors senior Parker Moquist retired the following batter to earn the save and advance East Ridge to the section title round.

Raptors coach Brian Sprout said he was “absolutely” nervous in the seventh, but was proud of his team’s response following its loss to Mahtomedi earlier in the afternoon.

“They’re capable of it,” he said. “It wasn’t like a doubt in my mind, it’s just a matter of ‘let’s do it,’ just stepping up and being ready.”

The win over Woodbury put the Raptors in a position where they had to top Mahtomedi twice to earn a trip to state. The first contest between the two will be played on Tuesday at 2:30 at Midway.

If East Ridge wins on Tuesday, the winner-all-contest versus the Zephyrs is Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., also at Midway.

Sprout said to beat Mahtomedi this time around, his squad had to do all of the little things right on the mound, on the base paths and on the field.

“We’ve got to execute in those areas and find a way to win,” he said.

For Kastner, the solution was simpler. He said his team just had to “play our game.”

“Just come out and make our plays,” he said. “We need everyone in the dugout and on the field into the game, and I think we can do it.”

Woodbury battles back through lower bracket 

Woodbury had a lot of work to do to advance to the sectional semi after losing its postseason opener to Stillwater back on May 24.

So the Royals put their nose to the grindstone and went to work.

After pounding Henry Sibley 14-0 in their first lower bracket game, the Royals trailed Cretin-Derham Hall 5-4 last Thursday at Midway.

That’s when senior Nick McLaughlin had the opportunity of his baseball career.

He stepped to the plate with two outs with bases loaded in the seventh inning.

And he delivered the winner. McLaughlin made the most of it as he drilled the ball through the infield to plate two runs and send the Royals home as the victors.

“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” McLaughlin said.

Woodbury captured redemption in the following round, as it knocked off Stillwater 4-1 before suffering the narrow defeat to East Ridge.

The Royals finished the season 17-8 and were in contention for the Suburban East title until the end of the season before falling just short.

“I love this team and love what we did,” McDermott said. “ I really like our group of seniors. I think we set a new standard and hopefully we can build on it as a program.”

@9on11:<I><*R>—Matthew Davis contributed to this report.