Maple Grove strikes out Park

Quarterfinal loss ends historic season

For the first time in 70 years, Park’s baseball team capped off its season by playing Maple Grove in the State Class AAAA quarterfinals June 14-15. The team participated in a two-day tournament, losing 2-5 to Maple Grove in the quarterfinals and 0-10 to Park High School in the consolation. Scoring a run early-on, coach Brian Kelly said the team anticipated a big lead, but due to uncharacteristic mistakes, Park suffered a 2-5 loss. 

After such a historic year for the team, Kelly said the moment was special despite the defeat.

“We worked hard, we didn’t give anything away — we did everything we could do to be in a good position, we just didn’t play well. And that’s sports, that’s part of it. Maybe some nerves, maybe the big stage might have got to us, the heat definitely got to us,” Kelly said. “We had some cracks in the foundation in that state tournament game — it is what it is.“

For senior Brady Truett, this year proved Park’s success and set a legacy for years to come. 

“I’d say it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. There’s eight seniors, so we’ll never get to do that again. I wouldn’t change a thing about it because nobody’s going to remember the losses,” Truett said. “They’re just going to remember that we put our names in the history books. it was truly something different and remarkable.”

A career goal of Kelly’s was to bring the team to a state tournament. After finally achieving that, he said the feeling was unparalleled. 

“To accomplish that, with this group of guys was really special. A group of guys I’ve known since they were 10-11 years old, (in) Little League.To see it through with them and make the tournament was just in itself amazing,” Kelly said. “Really special to see a group of multi-sport athletes that have had a goal to make a state tournament … do it at their last shot — the spring season of their senior career.”

According to senior Kristofer Hokenson, another highlight of the experience was hearing encouragement from former players.

“(A lot of) past players at SLP reached out to all of us and (said) congratulations, they’re all excited for us,” Hokenson said. “We’re so glad that we accomplished our goal (of going to state) from the beginning of the year.”

Building sustained success is integral for the baseball program, Kelly said. With all the support from the community, he said the team is hungry to get started again next season. 

“When you make the state tournament and you see the community rally around you, and you see the guys starting to get all this recognition, it means so much to the baseball community. We always say, ‘it’s not a me thing, it’s a we thing,’” Kelly said. “We have the ability to beat them and do it with a small school that plays against all the big dogs. That’s really what it meant to us, just to prove to ourselves, our community and everyone else that we can compete with anybody.”

In addition to the team’s achievements, Hokenson was named the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. Hokenson said he attributed much of his success to the support of his teammates and coaches.

“I’m very honored to get that award. I’ve worked really hard and I’m glad that it has paid off,” Hokenson said. “All the coaches and my teammates really helped me — I couldn’t do it without them.”