Mounds View junior Drew Rogers strolled to the mound confident and left triumphant, with a save in a one-run victory over top-ranked Cretin-Derham Hall.
Three weeks later, Rogers' stroll to the mound came at the start, not the end. He exited with a four-hitter, after 10 strikeouts over six innings. That day the opponent was Champlin Park, winner of 11 in a row. His counterpart on the mound was a Division I-level pitcher, and the stakes were high: A loss would have ended Mounds View's hope for a spot in the Class 4A tournament.
Just the spot for one of the best high school catchers in the nation.
For his presence crouched behind the plate, for his skill with a bat in his hands, and this season for his success on the mound, as a closer and starter, Rogers is the Star Tribune's Metro Player of the Year in baseball.
It runs in the family. His older brother, Will, won the award two years ago, before heading off to college at Arizona State.
"Will is definitely the person I look up to the most," Rogers said. "He works so hard and is so humble."
Those are among Drew's attributes, too.
"Drew is just an incredible person," Mounds View coach Nik Anderson said. "He's kind, hardworking, respectful, fun, thoughtful, positive, a great listener and constantly striving for more. Those traits obviously have been at the core of what's turned him into such a phenomenal baseball player."
Rogers is first a catcher, committed to Georgia Tech for college. He's known as an outstanding signal-caller, and he wields a live arm. He has 11 assists this season; he'll snap throws behind baserunners or get them stealing. His best "pop" time — the seconds that pass between the ball hitting his mitt and his throw getting to second base, requiring footwork, dexterity and velocity — is 1.81; the major league average is 2.0.
"I work on my pop time all the time," he said. "I think I get a lot better throughout the high school year. The coaches really push me. It's an opportunity to grow and get better."
He takes to the mound out of necessity for the Mustangs, who went 15-9 this season and will open the state tournament Tuesday against third seed Minnetonka at CHS Field.
"I didn't pitch at all last summer," he said. "I'm pitching because I can throw pretty hard and throw strikes. I don't consider myself a pitcher."
He might have to reconsider after that Section 5 tournament start against Champlin Park. His fastball was timed at 88-90 miles per hour throughout the game and topped out at 91 on an 82-pitch day.
"I try to treat every single game with the same competitive energy," Rogers said. "I didn't even know I could throw 88 mph. I was absolutely shocked when I saw 91. I didn't know I could do that."
He's a known quantity as a hitter. His gap-to-gap approach has produced back-to-back .400 seasons; over those two seasons he's 65-for-150, a .433 average. At 6 feet and 220 pounds, he hits for power, with nine home runs and 46 RBI this season, all of this while playing most of his games in the powerful Suburban East Conference.
"What he accomplished as a sophomore is hard to follow up," Anderson said. "I'm not sure how many people have put together a two-year campaign like we've seen out of Drew this year and last in a conference chock full of high-level college baseball-caliber pitchers."
Drew Rogers, his coach said, is a player for big spots, whether that spot is at the plate, behind it or throwing over it.
"Up and down our team, if you ask anyone who you want up in the big situation or who you want closing out a tight game on the mound, the answer would be Drew," Anderson said. "That's not just because he's the most talented, but it's because he's put in the work to earn everyone's trust.
"He's built disciplines in everyday life that carry over to the field and have led to great success."