Pitching powers Fairmont baseball to sectional victory

FIRING TO FIRST — Fairmont catcher Zac Ringnell fires the baseball to first base after fielding an Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City bunt during a Section 3AA elimination playoff game Saturday at Legion Field in Marshall. Fairmont third baseman Eli Anderson watches the action. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

MARSHALL — Fairmont’s bottomless pitching rotation overcame five errors, while No. 8 batter Eli Anderson went 2-for-2 with a game-best three RBIs to power the cardiac Cardinals to a second consecutive elimination-bracket playoff triumph on Saturday at Legion Field.

Starting pitcher Joey Flohrs allowed one earned run in four-plus innings of five-hit baseball, while Nick Eversman hurled three shutout frames of one-hit relief to power Fairmont to an 8-2 Section 3AA win over the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Falcons in Marshall.

Fairmont (15-7) advances to face Luverne in a 7 p.m. elimination game on Tuesday night in Jackson. Paynesville handed Luverne its first loss of the postseason, 5-0, Saturday in Marshall.

Paynesville awaits the winner between Fairmont and Luverne in a 5 p.m. sectional championship game on Thursday at a location to be determined.

ACGC, whose starting lineup on Saturday featured four freshmen, ended the season with an 11-11 record.

“Fear the seventh seed,” a grinning Falcons head coach Mike Kingery said playfully in reference to his youthful lineup that upended North Sub-Section No. 2 seed Minnewaska Area and North No. 3 seed New London-Spicer the previous Saturday.

The Cardinals believed Kingery’s epigram after their first three batters all struck out at the hands of ACGC right-hander Josh Kinzler before the Falcons scratched out two runs in the home half of the initial inning.

Kinzler assisted his own cause by reaching on a Fairmont error, took second on freshman Connor Barker’s infield hit and advanced 90 more feet when Flohrs hit freshman Jack Peterson with a pitch to load the bases.

Flohrs got an infield popout, but freshman Zach Bagley drilled a two-run single to center to stake ACGC to the early advantage on the scoreboard.

Flohrs then worked around errors in three consecutive innings without surrendering a run to keep Fairmont within striking distance.

“Joey Flohrs turned in a very good pitching performance despite the defensive adversity in the field behind him today,” said Cardinal co-head coach Jerry Brooks. “Our offense then tied it up with two (runs) in the third and another run in the fourth to finally take the lead.

“Nick Eversman then did an exceptional job in closing out the last three innings on the mound.”

Fairmont freshman Eli Anderson drew a leadoff walk in the top of the third, wheeled to second base on Daniel Reiter’s sacrifice bunt, took third when Kinzler bounced a pickoff throw off Anderson’s arm and crossed the plate on Dalen Keltgen’s RBI hit up the middle.

Cale Steuber, who reached via a base-on-balls prior to Keltgen’s at-bat, later tagged and scored on Eversman’s sacrifice fly to center to knot the game at 2-all.

Tyson Geerdes proved the offensive catalyst behind the Cardinals producing the go-ahead solo run in the top of the fourth. Geerdes lined a leadoff single, gained second base on Zach Jorgensen’s infield hit, motored to third on an errant pickoff attempt at first base and later scored on Jacob Tennyson’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly.

After Flohrs gave up back-to-back singles to Barker and Peterson to open the bottom of the fifth, Eversman stepped to the mound and kept the Falcons off the scoreboard via three consecutive outs. Eversman gloved a sacrifice bunt attempt and fired to third to get the lead runner to trigger the Cardinals’ defensive stand.

Zac Ringnell walked, advanced to second on Jorgensen’s sacrifice bunt, was awarded third on the Falcon shortstop’s interference and crossed the plate on Anderson’s RBI single to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 4-2 in the sixth.

Jorgensen’s RBI single, Anderson’s pivotal two-run hit and a wild pitch helped Fairmont doubled its run production via four more in the top of the seventh inning to build an 8-2 margin.

“Our guys came through with four runs on three hits in the seventh to give Nick a little more breathing room in the bottom of the inning,” said Brooks. “Once again, we lived to play another day, and hopefully, we can capitalize on another opportunity on Tuesday.”

Anderson, Keltgen and Jorgensen each produced two of the Cardinals’ nine hits on the playoff clash, while Barker went 2-for-3 to pace the Falcons’ six-hit effort.

Kinzler allowed four runs — three earned — on six hits, struck out seven and walked five in six innings pitched to receive the loss.

FAIR 002 101 4 — 8 9 5

ACGC 200 000 0 — 2 6 3

Joey Flohrs (WP), Nick Eversman (5, Sv) and Zac Ringnell. Josh Kinzler (LP), Zach Bagley (7) and Logan Straumann.

LOB–Fairmont 8, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City 8. 2B–Daniel Reiter (FAIR). SF–Nick Eversman (FAIR), Jacob Tennyson (FAIR). SAC–Tyson Geerdes (FAIR), Zach Jorgensen (FAIR), Daniel Reiter (FAIR), Shelby Shoen (ACGC).