Fairmont downs Mankato National

HEADING HOME — Fairmont American Legion Post 36 baseball coach Levi Becker (12) points to the plate as runner Jordan Wolter prepares to round third base en route to scoring a run during a Division 1, Sub-State 2 elimination playoff game Thursday in Searles. (Photo by Greg Abel)

SEARLES — Jack Hested hurled a six-hit complete game to help the Fairmont American Legion Post 36 baseball team overcome Mankato National Post 11, 4-3, during a Division 1, Sub-State 2 elimination playoff game Thursday.

Unfortunately, Hested and his Post 36 teammates could not overcome the effects of an ensuing 40-minute downpour that muddied the manicured Searles diamond.

After being rained out in Game 2 Thursday, Fairmont (5-8) will return to sub-state action today against Sleepy Eye Post 7 in a 2 p.m. elimination game at Mueller Park in New Ulm.

“Jordan (Wolter) really helped us get off to a fast start from the leadoff spot (in the batting order) today,” said Post 36 head coach Levi Becker.

Wolter collected the first of his game-best four hits to help Fairmont quickly answer Mankato’s solo run in the top of the first inning. Wolter reached second base when National starting pitcher Matt Helget issued a walk to Cale Steuber before scoring on Blake Buntjer’s clutch RBI single to center with two out.

Ironically, the only walk issued by Hested costed the Post 36 a run in the top of the first.

Ben Hopper reached via a four-pitch free pass, wheeled to second on Ben Maes’ blooper into shallow right field, motored to third on Nate Phinney’s fielder’s choice and crossed the plate on Owen Casteel’s sacrifice fly.

Fittingly, Wolter served as Fairmont’s second-inning catalyst with two outs. The fleet-footed leadoff batter singled, swiped second base and sprinted home on Steuber’s RBI single to stake Post 36 to a 2-1 lead.

National answered in the top of the third frame when Maes was hit by a Hested offering and eventually scored on Lucas Warner’s pivotal RBI double to deep center with two outs.

“I thought our defense backed Jack well today, and he finally got into a good (pitching) rhythm down the stretch,” said Becker.

Jackson Utermarck provided the clutch two-run single with two out in the bottom of the third inning to extend Fairmont’s margin to 4-2.

Dalen Keltgen walked before Joey Flohrs smashed a two-out one-hopper off the Mankato third baseman’s extended diving body for an infield hit.

A passed ball proved costly for National as Keltgen and Flohrs advanced 90 feet each before circling the bases on Utermarck’s single to center.

After allowing Phinney’s towering solo home run in the fifth, Hested regained his focus on the mound and retired the final nine Mankato batters in consecutive fashion to earn the complete-game victory.

Hested struck out three and gave up three earned runs on six hits in seven innings of work.

Steuber went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks for Fairmont, while Warner went 2-for-3 to top Mankato National.

Helget allowed four earned runs on six hits, struck out four and issued three walks in three innings pitched to receive the loss for Mankato.

Cam Struve notched two strikeouts and issued two walks, while giving up three hits in three scoreless innings of relief for Mankato.

“It’ll definitely be a busy day and night,” said Becker, who will join assistant coach Matt Lytle in the drive from New Ulm to Pipestone today to play in the Fairmont Martins’ Region 13C amateur baseball playoff game against the host A’s at 7:30 p.m.

MNL 101 010 0 — 3 6 2

FMT 112 000 X — 4 9 1

Matt Helget (LP), Cam Stuve (4) and Ben Anderson. Jack Hested (WP) and Zach Jorgensen.

LOB–Fairmont 9, Mankato National 6. 2B–Lucas Warner (MNL). HR–Nate Phinney (MNL). SF–Owen Casteel (MNL).