FAIRMONT - When the two-time defending Class AA state softball champion New Ulm Eagles and Fairmont squared off a month ago in New Ulm, the Cardinals only managed three hits.
A month later, the Cardinals scratched out three hits against the Eagles, but New Ulm held on for the 7-1 South Central Conference victory on Friday at Cardinal Park in Fairmont.
"I think in some cases because it's New Ulm, our batters go into the box intimidated," said Fairmont head coach Terry Ehlert. "Going into every game I have faith in my team that we can win, it doesn't matter who we play. And it's disappointing to lose today, but they are a good team."
CLOSE PLAY — Fairmont first baseman Allison Moeller (left) waits for the throw as New Ulm’s Tori Botten nears the bag during South Central Conference softball action Friday at Cardinal Park in Fairmont. Botten was safe on the play. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
New Ulm hurler Brittany Denn pitched five innings of one-hit softball, striking out five to keep the visitors on top.
Hannah Backer came in and pitched the final two innings, allowing the one Cardinal run and two hits in her relief effort.
The Eagles' Abby Kamm started the game with a slap-hit single, before wheeling to second on Rachel Strandmark's sacrifice bunt.
No. 3 batter Ellie Schneider drove in the first of two RBIs with a hard-hit grounder to second, scoring Kamm from second.
Brittany Denn, who nearly hit for the cycle, then helped the Eagles' cause, belting a solo home run over the left-field fence to go ahead 2-0 after one.
Fairmont held the Eagles scoreless in the second.
Catcher Lisa Craig zipped a throw to shortstop Kristin Campe at second to pick off Botten attempting to steal after a leadoff single and the Cardinal defense sat down the next two batters with forceouts.
"Defensively, I thought that we played well. We made a few errors and New Ulm, of course, took advantage of them," said Ehlert. "They didn't really have a big inning against us though, and we were able to get out of a few innings."
Briana Sieve, who went 2-for-3, led off the top of the third with a double.
Kamm laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Kamm to third, before she raced home on a Strandmark hit to second base.
The Eagles added a run in the fourth and three more in the fifth to go ahead 7-0.
The Cardinals threatened in the third, with Craig drawing a leadoff walk, but the Eagles got three straight outs to end the threat.
Michaela Gochanour broke up Botten's no-hitter with a single in the fourth with two outs, but again New Ulm found a way out of the inning without giving up a run.
Mikayla Krzywicki, who pitched all seven innings for the Cardinals, gave up 12 hits and seven runs - six earned - to take the loss.
Krzywicki walked to lead off the sixth for Fairmont before courtesy runner Karen Flores wheeled to second on Courtney Guetter's grounder through the left side of the infield.
Taylor Nuss laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Flores and Guetter to third and second with two outs.
Gochanour hit a grounder to third, keeping the runners in their places, before Campe delivered a hit down the left field line for an RBI.
Fairmont (6-6, 2-2 SCC) plays host to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted and Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in tournament action at 10 a.m. today at Cardinal Park in Fairmont.
New Ulm (8-4, 6-0 SCC) plays host to St. James Area in a South Central Conference game at 4:30 p.m. on Monday at Harman Park in New Ulm.
NU 201 130 0 - 7 12 1
FHS 000 001 0 - 1 3 1
Tori Botten (WP), Hannah Backer (6) and Kali Denn. Mikayla Krzywicki (LP) and Lisa Craig.
LOB-New Ulm 4; Fairmont 3. 2B-Brittany Denn (NU), Briana Sieve (NU), Katie Forst (NU). 3B-Brittany Denn (NU). HR-Brittany Denn (NU). SAC-Rachel Strandmark (NU), Abby Kamm (NU), Taylor Nuss (F).
Martin County West 18, Cleveland 3 - Jordan Gregory produced a game-best five RBIs on the strength of four hits to power the Mavericks to an 18-3, five-inning triumph over the Clippers during Valley Conference action Friday in Cleveland.
Gregory homered and doubled twice to generate her top RBI total, while teammates Kate Thiesse, Rebecca Steen and Shawna Dressen each contributed three hits to MCW's 20-hit offensive outburst.
Thiesse collected three RBIs via her three hits; Steen tripled, doubled twice and drove in three runs; while Dressen doubled and tallied two RBIs.
Martha Olson added two hits, including a double, with one RBI to the Mavericks' outstanding offensive performance.
Steen allowed three runs on seven hits, struck out nine and issued only one walk in five innings of work to earn the complete-game victory.
Holly Gibbs and Megan Gjemse each produced two hits for Cleveland.
Martin County West (10-3, 5-2 Valley) hosts Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain at 4 p.m. Monday at the Fox Lake Area Sports Complex in Welcome.
MCW 320 (11)2 - 18 20 0
CLEV 003 ( 0)0 - 3 7 3
Rebecca Steen (WP) and Shawna Dressen. Desi Becker (LP), Cassidy Kopet (4) and Holly Gibbs.
Alden-Conger 13, Madelia/Truman 2 - Liesel Theusch homered and doubled to generate three RBIs to help engineer the Knights' 13-2, five-inning Valley Conference victory over the Jayhawks on Friday in Truman.
Brooke Reyerson went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored for Alden-Conger, while Karina Skov went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and scored three runs.
Jessica Price went 2-for-4 with one RBI for the Knights, while Cassie Gilster chipped in an RBI triple.
Savannah Hodge delivered an RBI single for the Jayhawks, while Stephanie Jahnz singled and scored a run.
Briannia Pearson went 1-for-2 with a run scored, while Melody Colon contributed a double for M/T.
Price allowed two runs on three hits, struck out two and walked two in five frames inside the pitcher's circle to earn the complete-game victory for A-C.
Beth Kotewa started and gave up 10 runs - nine earned - on nine hits, struck out five and walked two in 3 1/3 innings to take the loss for the Jayhawks.
Madelia/Truman (4-9, 2-3 Valley) hosts Mankato Loyola on Monday in Madelia.
A-C 150 52 - 13 12 1
M/T 010 01 - 2 3 6