Saint Thomas Academy got to the Class AAA state baseball tournament by beating Two Rivers twice in the section finals when all odds seemed stacked against them. But coming up with those heroics again at state proved a bit much as the Cadets lost 4-2 to Alexandria in the opener on June 14 and then 10-4 to Saint Francis in consolations the following day.

The twin defeats were indeed frustrating for coach Bobby Thompson and the Cadets (19-9). Their team defense wasn’t as sharp as it had been all season. However, there were plenty of positives coming out of a year that started with just five players having varsity experience.

“It’s still a really good season,” Thompson said. “This is still a young team, and it was great that they got some good experience in this postseason.”

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The outcome of the first-round game against Alexandria might have been different had the Cadets just been themselves defensively. Junior Mike Miller started on the mound for STA and had five strikeouts, but he also had an atypical five walks. It didn’t help that STA had two big errors in the fourth inning. “They were plays that we usually make,” lamented Thompson.

“It’s still a really good season,” coach Thompson said. “This is still a young team, and it was great that they got some good experience in this postseason.”

The Cadets also couldn’t put enough together offensively. “Our guys worked hard right till the end,” Thompson said, “but we just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it.”

Saint Francis looked vulnerable going into the consolation round with just a 13-12 record, but jumped out to a 5-0 lead and STA couldn’t catch up. That’s despite two extra-base hits from Cadet junior Daniel Dahl and a home run from junior designated hitter Noah Erickson.

The Cadets out-hit the Fighting Saints 10-9, but also made three errors. “They hit the ball really well,” Thompson said.

STA arrived at state with good momentum having bested Two Rivers 7-4 on June 7 and then 4-1 two days later to claim the Section 3AAA title. “Our backs were up against the wall,” Thompson said, “but we realized that and did a great job.”

The Cadets’ future looks bright, with 13 players expected to return next year, seven of which were starters this spring. And first-year STA coach Thompson is looking to build some long-term time in a job that has seen some extensive turnover in recent years. Jon Engeswick served as STA’s interim coach last year and returned as an assistant coach this spring after Thompson was hired on.

— Bill Wagner

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