GARRETT – First-year Bishop Dwenger coach Jason Garrett’s rebuilding project added another level Monday.
After already having secured a surprising SAC championship, the Saints picked up their first sectional title in almost a decade with a 6-2 win over Concordia in the Garrett Class 3A Sectional finals Monday.
Dwenger (17-11) will play Norwell (18-8) at the Bellmont Regional semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday.
It was the Saints’ first sectional championship since 2005. Dwenger was 7-19-1 last year.
Guys who have bought into the program, Garrett said of the key to the turnaround. We speak a lot about not having nine great players that make up a team, but a great team of nine players. It’s hard to beat nine guys when they are united like that.
The kids have been hungry, and they have always wanted something like this. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but they have certainly bought in.
The Saints were picked to finish sixth in the SAC by the league’s coaches in the preseason but captured the conference title with a 10-4 record after going 3-11 in league play in 2013.
It’s a completely different program, said senior pitcher Luke Palmer, who picked up the win. It’s just been a completely different game for us, turning this entire program around.
We struggled early in the season, but we pulled it together at the end. It was all about working together and making something of ourselves.
The Saints have beaten the Cadets (12-16) three times this year, the first two in one-run decisions, 7-6 and 6-5.
Concordia threatened to make it close, getting two runners on in the bottom of the seventh inning. But reliever Dalton O’Boyle pitched out of trouble after hitting a batter and walking another one.
This one could have gone either way, Garrett said. It always went down the wire (with Concordia), and we never felt comfortable. But we always found a way. If there was anything that defined these guys it’s resiliency.
Noah Freimuth hit a grand slam in the top of the third inning for a 4-0 Saints lead.
I couldn’t have done it without my teammates getting on base, said Freimuth, who was 2 for 3 with four RBI. They got on base and got the pitcher (Nick Bradley) in a jam.
Later in the third, Cody Miller’s single knocked in Zach Norton from second base, giving Dwenger a 5-0 advantage, chasing Bradley.
That inning sparked us and discouraged Concordia a little, Freimuth said. To get that kind push early in the game really helped us out.
Palmer picked up the win after throwing five solid innings before running into trouble and being replaced by O’Boyle.
Going in, we knew Concordia would hit and fortunately I have a good defense behind me, Palmer said. They were hitting the ball, but the defense made the plays.
The Cadets cut the Saints’ lead to 6-2 with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.