Fairmont baseball perfect in two sectional games
FAIRMONT — “Did we just score four runs without hitting the baseball?” Fairmont co-head coach Jerry Brooks rhetorically pondered after the sixth inning’s completion in Saturday’s Section 3AA second-round game against Windom Area.
Cardinals’ Game 1 starter Joey Flohrs and reliever Dan Brummond combined with Game 2 starter Jack Hested and closer Dalen Keltgen for back-to-back postseason shutouts at Herb Wolf Field, leaving both Jackson County Central and Windom Area as perplexed as Brooks.
Flohrs and Brummond combined for a 4-hit gem, and Eli Anderson delivered the walk-off RBI single with one out in the opener’s sixth inning to pace Fairmont’s 10-0 run-rule triumph over the No. 7-seeded Huskies.
Hested and Keltgen then blended mound skills for a one-hit masterpiece as the Cardinals tallied the second-round sectional’s only runs via three consecutive walks and a plunked batter with the bases loaded to cap a 4-0 win over the No. 3-seeded Eagles.
Fairmont (13-6), the South Sub-Section’s No. 2 seed, advances to face Paynesville — the North Sub-Section’s No. 1 seed — at 5 p.m. Tuesday in a battle of sectional unbeatens at American Legion Field in Marshall.
Paynesville shut out Redwood Valley, 3-0, and defeated Montevideo, 7-2, respectively, to gain the championship semifinals.
In the 7 p.m. undefeated-bracket game Tuesday, Luverne — the South’s No. 1 seed — squares off against upset-minded Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City — the North’s No. 7 seed — in Marshall.
Luverne bested Martin County West, 14-0, in five innings before rolling by Pipestone, 11-1. ACGC toppled North No. 2 seed Minnewaska, 1-0, in 10 innings before edging North No. 3 seed New London-Spicer, 3-2.
“Those two wins today were Jerry Brooks’ brand of baseball,” Fairmont co-head coach Don Waletich said with a grin. “Pitching and defense, and more pitching and defense.”
Ironically, the Cardinals generated only 13 hits during the two-game playoff span, but capitalized on 13 walks and three plunked batters to help manufacture runs.
Fairmont experienced a bit of deja vu when producing its sixth-inning score spree versus Windom Area, as the Cardinals began the bottom of the first inning against JCC in a nearly identical manner.
Cale Steuber and Nick Eversman drew walks from Huskies starter Gavin Jacobsen before an error allowed Dustin Schultz to reach to load the bases. With two outs, Zac Ringnell was hit by a Jacobsen pitch before Eli Anderson drew an RBI walk for a 2-0 lead. JCC reliever Levi Lindley then issued a bases-loaded walk to Flohrs for a three-run differential.
Steuber later singled, stole second base, wheeled to third on the overthrow and tallied the Cardinals’ solo run in the second on a wild pitch.
Ironically, Fairmont doubled its lead over JCC to 8-0 with four runs on just two hits in the bottom of the fourth. Ringnell’s towering two-run triple into the right-field corner capped the offensive outburst.
Eversman later singled home another solo run in the Cardinals’ fifth to inch within one of a run-rule early exit before Fairmont ran itself out of the inning.
Schultz then hammered a leadoff double in the Fairmont sixth and circled the bases with the game-ending run on Anderson’s RBI single to left.
Flohrs struck out three, walked one and hit a batter in pitching five shutout innings of four-hit baseball to earn the Game 1 win. Brummond worked a 1-2-3 top of the sixth for the Cardinals.
Ringnell went 2-for-3 with three RBIs to top Fairmont’s nine-hit performance in the opener before Schultz and Jacob Tennyson each went 2-for-3 to top the Cardinals in a 4-0 win over the Eagles in Game 2.
Hested and Windom Area ace left-hander Kobe Lovell locked up in a classic pitchers’ duel, with neither hurler allowing a run during their impressive five-inning mound stints.
Hested allowed only Hunter Walklin’s bunt hit in the fifth, while Lovell gave up a towering second-inning double to Tennyson and a fourth-inning single to Schultz.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, Lovell needed 35 pitches to seal his team’s 4-3 first-round win over St. James Area, leaving him with only 80 deliveries available in Game 2 due to the high school league’s pitch-count limit.
Walklin relieved Lovell to start the bottom of the sixth and the sophomore right-hander notched two quick outs before Schultz and Tennyson delivered back-to-back singles. Ringnell then walked to load the bases for Fairmont before Anderson and Flohrs collected RBIs on back-to-back walks for a 2-0 Cardinals’ lead.
Kade Simmons, Windom Area’s next reliever, then issued a bases-loaded walk to pinch hitter Tyson Geerdes and plunked Steuber for another RBI before getting an inning-ending groundout.
Keltgen recorded both of his strikeouts during the top of the seventh inning to seal the Cardinals’ 4-0 second-round victory over the Eagles. Keltgen walked one in two scoreless innings of relief to earn the save.
Hested struck out four, walked one and hit three batters in firing a one-hit shutout over five innings to net the win.
Windom Area plays New London-Spicer in a 7 p.m. elimination game Tuesday night in Jackson.
JCC 000 000 — 0 4 4
FHS 310 411 — 10 9 0
Winning run scored with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Gavin Jacobsen (LP), Levi Lindley (1), Alex Bretzman (4), Nathan Reed (4), Dalton Henning (5) and Zach Neal. Joey Flohrs (WP), Dan Brummond (6) and Zac Ringnell.
LOB–Fairmont 8, Jackson Co. Central 5. 2B–Dustin Schultz (FHS). 3B–Ringnell (FHS). SAC–Cale Steuber (FHS), Dalen Keltgen (FHS).
WDM 000 000 0 — 0 1 1
FHS 000 004 x — 4 4 0
Kobe Lovell, Hunter Walklin (6, LP), Kade Sammons (6) and Kyle Espenson. Jack Hested (WP), Dalen Keltgen (6, Sv) and Zac Ringnell.
LOB–Fairmont 7, Windom Area 4. 2B–Jacob Tennyson (FHS). SAC–Walklin (WDM).