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Blue Jays top Skis to win fourth state championship

After overcoming two tall hurdles and then sprinting down “Redemption Road,” the Plato Blue Jays celebrated a state championship on Monday, Sept. 3, defeating the Sobieski Skis 8-5 in the Class C championship game at Memorial Park in New Prague.
“It is the goal at the start of every season – go win the state title,” manager Adam Dammann said. “We knew we had a good team and thought we had a strong chance.
“Now we’ve done it and it is awesome. I am so proud of these guys.”
Thanks in large part to the pitching exploits of Chris Odegaard, Plato was able to overcome both Luxemburg and Faribault in a pair of 1-0 victories before breaking out the bats to take three straight wins over Hutchinson, Kimball and the Skis to take the title.
“Once we got past those first two games, then it was ‘Redemption Road’ for us,” Dammann said. “Hutch, Kimball and Sobieski have all eliminated us in previous state tournaments – this time, we were able to get them back.”
The Blue Jays began championship weekend with one of the greatest pitching duels in team history as Odegaard took on Faribault’s Matt Lane.
Lane, the “Pitching Pastor” and the ace of the Lakers’ staff, pitched in the minor leagues before becoming a reverend at a Faribault church and pitching for the local team.
As daunting as the matchup was, Odegaard won the night and the game by tossing a two-hitter at the Lakers.
“Chris is a gamer,” Dammann said. “Once again, it showed.”
However, Lane was also quite successful in keeping the Blue Jays at bay, allowing just six hits in the contest as the score remained 0-0 into the bottom of the ninth.
After several near misses, Plato finally broke through with the winning run.
“We were getting runners in scoring position, but then our bats fell flat,” Dammann said. “We finally got that lucky bounce there at the end.”
A one-out broken-bat chopper by Ryan Moriarty was fielded by Lane, but a bad throw to first bounced up into the face of first baseman Ryan Archambault, who collided with Moriarty.
As the calamity occurred, Tyler Lang, who had led off the inning with a double, rounded third base and came home to score the lone – and winning – tally of the game.
“We got a lucky bounce, in a bad way, but we pushed through to win a huge game,” Dammann said.
The game was the final appearance on the mound for Odegaard, who finished his state resume with two complete games shutouts, having allowed nine hits and two walks while striking out 16 batters in 18 innings.
Buoyed by that victory, Plato returned to Shakopee on Sunday, Sept. 2, to roll on through the Class C bracket with sizable wins over Hutchinson and Kimball.
Watertown draftee Pat Tschida tossed a complete game for Plato in a 6-1 defeat of Hutchinson to open Sunday’s slate of games.
In his lone appearance for the Blue Jays, he went all nine innings, allowing six hits, three walks and one unearned run while striking out nine.
Matt Odegaard hit Plato’s first home run of the tournament and drove in three runs as part of a 3-for-3 game.
Plato followed that win up with an 18-hit smackdown of Kimball in a 12-5 semifinal victory.
Matt Odegaard went yard once again, with Tyler Lang also homering in the contest. Both batters went 3-for-5 with four RBI.
Chris Odegaard snapped a 22-year-old record for doubles in a game with four two-baggers as part of a 5-for-5 game. The previous record of three doubles in a game had been held by another Blue Jay, Dave Franke, who accomplished Plato’s first state title-winning season of 1996.
Blue Jays starter Adam Prehn earned the win, with Green Isle draftee Mac Zachow claiming a three-inning save as Plato advanced to the title round.
Zachow and fellow Irish draftee Cody Hallahan took to the hill for the Blue Jays in the state championship game in New Prague as Plato took on the team that booted it from last year’s Class C bracket – Sobieski.
The Blue Jays seemed well on their way to laying some extra mustard on their revenge by taking an 8-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Plato sent 13 batters to the plate and chased off Skis starter Jack Hegarty before the opening frame was through.
“Hitting is contagious,” Dammann said. “Everyone really fed off each other in that inning.”
However, after netting eight hits in the first inning, the Blue Jays managed just five more in the next eight innings.
Sobieski began to rally, notching its first tally on a solo home run in the third inning off Hallahan before mounting an uprising amongst as the skies opened up in the fifth frame.
In an inning delayed 90 minutes by a torrential rainstorm, the Skis posted four runs to draw within three runs at 8-5.
After the rains had largely let up, Zachow took over for his fellow Green Islander on the hill.
With the Plato bats remaining largely silent, Zachow kept the Skis at bay over five innings.
Three years after the Blue Jays defeated Zachow’s Irish to win the 2015 title, now he was instrumental in helping Plato win another.
“Plato and Green Isle have one of the greatest rivalries in the state, but have always had the utmost respect for one another,” Dammann said. “That showed during this tournament.”
Zachow allowed three hits and two walks in his five innings of work to earn the win in the final game of the 2018 season.
Sobieski’s last gasp in the top of the ninth was hushed as Lang made a leaping catch to pull back a possible home run to open the stanza.
Two batters later, an infield hopper was gobbled up by Chris Odegaard and flipped to first baseman Zack Stockman for the final out of the state tournament.
The final out made, Stockman charged toward the mound, holding the ball aloft in his gloved left hand.
Stockman’s teammates followed in suit, mobbing one another over the pitcher’s mound as Plato added a fourth state title to ones won in 1996, 2007 and 2015.
“It’s just an awesome feeling,” Dammann said. “I really can’t say enough about these guys.”
Chris Odegaard, who began the Blue Jays’ first-inning charge with a leadoff double, was an easy choice for tournament MVP after batting .667 in addition to his pitching efforts. His eight tourney doubles matched Franke’s record total in 1996.
Chris also joined his father Greg Odegaard to become the first-ever father/son MVP duo. Greg won back-to-back MVP honors with Arlington in 1984 and 1985.
Speaking of family, the Blue Jays’ state title literally couldn’t come fast enough for Dammann as his wife Megan is expecting the couple’s first child.
“We are one day away from the due date,” he said. “But Megan was there for every moment of every game. I can’t thank her enough.”
Dammann also thanked the “Blue Wave” of Plato fans that joined the 17,349 fans that attended this year’s tournament. It was the largest recorded tourney attendance since 1960.
“The support has been amazing and it makes a difference,” he said. “Baseball is alive and well.”