At Lakeville North High School, winning one section final is not exciting enough for a Tuesday evening.
Why earn one state berth when you can earn two within two hours of each other?
Lakeville North did just that on Tuesday with the baseball team winning the Section 1AAAA championship and boys’ lacrosse winning the Section 1A championship. The boys’ lacrosse team earned its third consecutive state berth with a 9-7 over Lakeville South, and the baseball team earned its fourth consecutive state berth with a 2-0 victory over Owatonna.
Not too bad of a day for the seniors who finished their last day of high school on Tuesday.
“It is really speaks about how solid our athletics are here at Lakeville North,” Panther lacrosse coach Jeff Wright said. “We are happy for our baseball team that they are able to go with us and that we are able to together.”
Although the two teams will head to their respective state tournaments “together,” the Panther baseball team earned their spot before the lacrosse section final began.
Lakeville North beat Owatonna on Saturday, sending the Huskies to the loser’s bracket. Owatonna fought its way back to the winners bracket, and ultimately the section championship, hoping to defeat the Panthers twice in one day.
Lakeville North pitcher Ross Bastyr had other ideas.
The junior pitcher tossed eight strikeouts through seven innings, allowing no runs. Bastyr and the Lakeville North defense kept the game close, but it was Michael Dooney who played the role of hero.
Super hero, actually.
Dooney stepped up to the plate and hit an RBI double with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Those two runs won Lakeville North the game, and earned it a trip to state.
Watch the hit by Dooney on the right.
Single by Dooney scores two! 2-0 @LN_Baseball! #PantherNation pic.twitter.com/NdldfkWuIg
— Brett Carlson (@LNHSPanthersAD) June 7, 2016
Lakeville North coach Tony Market chose not to send the lead-off runner home when he rounded third on the previous at-bat, and he said he began to question his decision immediately after.
Dooney quickly erased Market’s conundrum.
“I needed Michael Dooney to come up and rescue me,” Market said. “He is kind of my super hero.”
Market does not need his batters to save the world, though—he just needs more frequent and production in early innings, two things that the Panthers have lacked from the plate throughout 2016.
“Our pitching is right on,” Dooney said. “We just need to string some hits together.”
The Lakeville North boys’ lacrosse team had the opposite problem. The Panthers came out strong in the first half against Lakeville South, outscoring the Cougars 6-1. That five-goal cushion quickly disappeared, however.
Lakeville South came within two as Lakeville North held on to a 7-5 lead with about 10 minutes left in regulation.
Max Johnson ended the Cougars’ scoring streak, though. Farmington ended Johnson’s senior hockey season in the section final, and he did not want another second-place medal.
“That thought and experience stuck through with me throughout the season,” Johnson said.
Lakeville South did score twice more, but the Panthers hung on for a 9-7 victory and a section title—its third over Lakeville South in the past three years.
Wright expects Lakeville North to receive one of the top two seeds at the state tournament next week where he expects the Panthers to improve on two fourth place finishes in 2013 and 2014.
“We haven’t plateaued,” Wright said. “Last year, I feel we plateaued, and that really hurt us in the end. We are looking for a much better outcome this year.”
Fourth place finishers do not get recognized with a banner in the Lakeville North gym, but Wright has aspirations for more than just the first Panther boys lacrosse banner.
“Hopefully, we end this tournament run with two banners hanging in our gym,” Wright said.