FAIRMONT - Luke Becker's pitching arm and clutch hitting helped the Class AA, No. 3-ranked Fairmont baseball team survive St. James' upset bid in Game 1 of Tuesday's South Central Conference doubleheader at Herb Wolf Field.
The Saints, however, got a combined shutout from starter Walker Froehling, reliever Jacob Ziemer and closer Sam Carlson, and capitalized on six hometown errors in Game 2 to deal the Cardinals their first loss of the spring campaign.
"We made too many errors to have a chance to win the second game today," said Fairmont mentor Todd Sukalski, whose lineup claimed the opener 2-1 before dropping the nightcap by a 4-0 decision. "Luke (Becker) pitched another outstanding game for us in the first game, and delivered the game-winning hit in the bottom of the seventh (inning), too."
TIP?O’ THE BAT — Fairmont’s Bryce Holm makes contact with the baseball off the end of his bat during Game 1 of a South Central Conference doubleheader with St. James on Tuesday at Herb Wolf Field. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)
The Cardinals converted two ill-fated Saints' miscues into the eventual game-winning run with two outs during the hometown lineup's last at-bat of regulation in the opener.
After Luke Becker and St. James ace right-hander Sam Carlson locked up in a 1-1 classic prep pitchers' duel, Bryce Holm legged out a bunt hit to lead off the Fairmont seventh. Christian Petschke's grounder was mishandled to create a first-and-second situation before Carlson notched one of his seven strikeouts.
Saints' catcher Devin Wolle then threw out the Cardinals' lead runner trying to steal third base before Carlson notched another strikeout. Unfortunately, the third strike skipped to the backstop, allowing Ellis to reach base and pinch runner Jordan Voss to wheel to third.
St. James head coach Jon Wilson opted to issue an intentional walk to Spencer Chirpich to set up a force play at any base, but Luke Becker lined a Carlson offering into center to plate Voss with the game-winning run.
The Saints scratched out a solo run in the top of the third behind John Olsen's single, Zach Brandts' single combined with a Fairmont error, and Froehling's RBI infield hit.
The Cardinals answered with a manufactured run during the fourth frame. Luke Becker walked, sprinted to third when Levi Becker's grounder was misplayed and crossed the plate on Ryan Noll's RBI fielder's choice.
Carlson allowed two runs - neither earned - on six hits, struck out seven and walked two in 6 2/3 innings of work to absorb the Game 1 loss for St. James.
Luke Becker recorded an incredible 10 strikeouts, issued one walk and allowed one unearned run on just four hits in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory for Fairmont.
Froehling then hurled a three-hitter over five scoreless innings, Ziemer gave up three hits in one-plus frame of relief and Carlson retired the side in order in the seventh to seal the Saints' 4-0 Game 2 victory.
Fairmont right-hander Jacob Ellis allowed only two hits, but was touched for three unearned runs in 4 2/3 innings to receive the loss. Ellis struck out one and walked two.
"I thought Jake (Ellis) pitched well for us, but he didn't look as impressive as he actually pitched because we didn't make the (defensive) plays behind him. I didn't think he deserved his fate (losing decision)," said Sukalski. "Give St. James credit - they made plays today and we didn't."
The Saints manufactured two runs in the fourth without the benefit of a hit. Carlson reached on an error and eventually crossed the plate when Olsen's grounder was thrown away at first base. David Bradley, who had walked, later scored on a bases-loaded walk to Justin Stevens.
Carlson later singled with two outs in the fifth before pinch runner Tyler Kueker came around to score on another Fairmont error.
Froehling then was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to account for a solo run in the Saints' sixth inning.
Bryce Holm, who went 4-for-6 on the twinbill, and Mitch Pfingsten each went 2-for-3 during Game 2 for the Cardinals, who stranded 16 runners during the two-game span, including nine in the nightcap.
Froehling struck out four and walked two in five shutout innings to net the victory. Carlson notched the save by facing the minimum of three batters in the seventh after inheriting a first-and-second situation with no outs.
Fairmont (7-1, 3-1 SCC) travels to Blue Earth Area for a 4:30 p.m. doubleheader on Thursday.
St. James (4-4, 2-3) plays host to St. Peter in a 4:30 p.m. twinbill on Thursday.
StJ 001 000 0 - 1 4 4
FHS 000 100 1 - 2 6 1
Winning run scored with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Sam Carlson (LP) and Devin Wolle. Luke Becker (WP) and Mitch Pfingsten.
LOB-Fairmont 7, St. James 3.
FHS 000 000 0 - 0 6 6
StJ 000 211 x - 4 2 0
Jacob Ellis (LP), Jordan Voss (5) and Ryan Noll. Walker Froehling (WP), Jacob Ziemer (6), Sam Carlson (7, Sv) and Tyler Witcraft.
LOB-Fairmont 9, St. James 7. SAC-Kyle Pinke (SJ), John Olsen (SJ), Justin Stevens (SJ).
Rodney Engstrom and Nate Johnson each pitched complete-game gems to steer Fairmont to a doubleheader sweep over St. James, 2-1 and 4-1, during B-squad action Tuesday in Fairmont.
Engstrom gave up one run on three hits, struck out five and walked four in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory in the opener.
Cole Emler went 2-for-3 to top the Cardinals' offense, while Engstrom and Johnson each produced RBI singles.
Johnson allowed one run on five hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk in five frames of work to earn the complete-game victory in Game 2.
Ben Abel delivered an RBI double for Fairmont, Parker Monsen and Engstrom each chipped in a hit, while Jon Dosedal collected an RBI via a fielder's choice.
Fairmont B-squad (6-0) travels to Blue Earth on Thursday.
Martin Luther/GHEC/Truman 6, St. Clair 0 - Left-hander Jeremy Smith fired a one-hit shutout to engineer the Knights' 6-0 Valley Conference victory over the Cyclones on Tuesday in Truman.
Smith recorded six strikeouts and issued only one walk in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory.
Josh Wolter generated two RBIs with a single to get the ML/GHEC/Truman offense revving, while Sam Geistfeld delivered an RBI single. Dylan Petrowiak singled and scored a run, while Dustin DeBell added a hit.
Dylan Boettcher collected St. Clair's lone hit on the game.
Alex Anderson allowed six runs - two earned - on four hits, struck out three, walked four and hit two batters in six innings to take the loss for the Cyclones.
Martin Luther/GHEC/Truman (6-2, 3-1 Valley) plays host to Mankato Loyola at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Truman.
St. Clair 000 000 0 - 0 1 4
MLGHECT 003 102 x - 6 4 2
Alex Anderson (LP) and Dylan Boettcher. Jeremy Smith (WP) and Tristan Maday.
Martin County West 9, Alden-Conger 1 - Jake Faber went 5-for-5, including three doubles, and produced a game-best six RBIs to power the Mavericks to a 9-1 Valley Conference victory over the Knights on Tuesday in Alden.
Austin Krumwiede went 4-for-4 with a double and scored three runs for MCW, while teammate Mitch Sitzmann went 4-for-5 with two runs scored and one RBI. Tony Payne went 2-for-3 to round out the visitors' 16-hit attack.
Payne recorded nine strikeouts, did not issue a walk and allowed one run on four hits in six innings of work to earn the victory. Faber fanned two in closing out the seventh inning in relief.
Brady Neel went 2-for-3 with a double to top A-C, while Eli Rinehart doubled home a run.
Martin County West (2-3, 2-1 Valley) travels to Cleveland today for a rescheduled game.
MCW 210 200 3 - 9 16 0
A-C 010 000 0 - 1 4 4
Tony Payne (WP), Jake Faber (7) and Toby Haugen. Spencer Wallin (LP) and Jordan Johnson.