BLUE EARTH - Pitching, pitching and more pitching.
The Fairmont VFW Post 1222 baseball lineup converted three consecutive shutouts from its talent-laden pitching rotation, including two during the weekend, to capture the 2nd District, Southwest Sub-District championship.
Right-hander Clayton Maakested fired a one-hit gem to engineer Fairmont's 10-0, five-inning triumph over St. James during Saturday's winners-bracket clash in Blue Earth.
TANGLED UP — Fairmont VFW Post 1222 runner Matt Lytle slides safely across the plate while getting entangled with Blue Earth Post 4580 catcher Kolt Gorg during Sunday’s 2nd District, Southwest Sub-District baseball championship game in Blue Earth. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)
Starting pitcher Nathan Gillis and closer Spencer Chirpich then combined on a two-hit shutout to steer Post 1222 to a 7-0 victory over Blue Earth Post 4580 during Sunday's sub-district finals in Blue Earth.
Both Fairmont (11-8) and Blue Earth advance to the 2nd District Tournament that will be held Thursday through next Sunday in Arlington and Green Isle. Fairmont will open district action against the Northwest District runner-up, while Blue Earth will face the Northwest's champion. Both games are scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at one of the two above sites.
"We (coaching staff) couldn't ask for better pitching than what we've gotten during this tournament," said Post 1222 head coach Don Waletich, whose team received a three-hit shutout performance from Matt Lytle during a 7-0 win over Blue Earth on Friday. "Great pitching and very good defense proved a good combination for us."
Chirpich, who started at shortstop, triggered a 6-4-3 double play to help Gillis worked around No. 5 batter Jack Kennedy's one-out single during the top of the second inning. Michael Mack's one-out single and walks to Kyle Engesser and Luke Schavey loaded the bases for Blue Earth during the third, but Post 1222 Tyler Tennyson gloved a hot shot off Alan Davids' bat to thwart the threat.
Meanwhile, Fairmont's batting order scratched out a solo run in the second without the benefit of a hit. Lytle walked, swiped second and third, before scoring via a Post 4580 throwing error.
Jack Waletich then delivered a clutch two-run single with the bases loaded to trigger Fairmont's three-run outburst during the home half of the fourth to stake Gillis to a 5-0 edge. Ben Abel added an RBI fielder's choice during the fourth.
Gillis coasted into the sixth with his shutout bid intact, but after recording two quick outs, issued back-to-back walks to Mathew Bell and Kennedy to cause Waletich to make a pitching change.
Chirpich stepped to the hill to record three strikeouts in closing out the final 1 1/3 innings to save Gillis' two-hit pitching performance and Fairmont's third shutout in a row.
Parker Monsen singled, Chirpich was plunked by a pitch and Tennyson drilled a two-run double to deep straight-away center to widen Post 1222's lead to 7-0 in the sixth.
Gillis struck out three and walked five in 5 2/3 shutout innings to net the win on Sunday. Blue Earth left-hander Blake Peterson gave up two runs - both unearned - on only one hit in two-plus innings to take the loss. Peterson walked four, struck out two and hit one batter.
Kennedy gave up five earned runs on four hits, walked three, fanned one and hit one batter in closing out the final four frames for Post 4580.
In Saturday's clash, Maakestad allowed a leadoff single to David Bradley during the bottom of the second inning before retiring 12 of the next 14 batters to earn a one-hit shutout to fuel Fairmont's 10-0, five-frame win over St. James.
Maakestad demonstrated stellar command of the strike zone, recording four strikeouts without issuing a walk in five scoreless innings to net the complete-game victory.
While Maakestad was assembling his one-hit mound masterpiece, Parker Monsen and Gillis were delivering runs from the batter's box. Monsen went 3-for-3 with a game-high four RBIs, while Gillis went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs to ignite Post 1222's 10-hit effort.
Gillis and Monsen delivered the pivotal damage during a five-run top of the first, with Gillis singling home one run before Monsen knocked in two more with a sharp single to left.
Monsen later delivered an RBI single to account for Fairmont's solo run in the third before Gillis hammered a two-run double on the heels of consecutive singles by Tennyson, Waletich and Abel, respectively. Abel netted one RBI with his fourth-inning hit before Monsen capped his outstanding offensive day with another RBI single.
Tennyson went 2-for-2 with two runs scored for Post 1222, while Cole Emler contributed an infield hit to the winning performance.
St. James starting pitcher Bransen Petersen allowed 10 runs - six earned - on nine hits, struck out four, walked two and hit one batter in three-plus innings to take the loss.
BE 000 000 0 - 0 2 1
F 011 302 x - 7 5 0
Blake Peterson (LP), Jack Kennedy (3) and Kolt Gorg. Nathan Gillis (WP), Spencer Chirpich (6) and Ben Abel.
LOB-Fairmont 5, Blue Earth 4. 2B-Tyler Tennyson (F). SAC-Cole Emler (F).
F 501 40 - 10 10 1
SJ 000 00 - 0 1 2
Clayton Maakestad (WP) and Ben Abel. Bransen Petersen (LP), Derek Meyer (4) and Tyler Witcraft.
LOB-Fairmont 6, St. James 3. 2B-Nathan Gillis (F).