Fairmont 14U takes championship

CHAMPIONS — Members of the North American Fastpitch Association Class ‘C’ Northern Nationals championship Fairmont 14U softball from left to right: (Front row) Ashley Muller, Allison Janssen, Chantel Moeller, Kynlie Anderson, Mandy Pytleski, Emma Gudahl. (Middle row) Johanna Petschke, Ava Terfehr, Nevaeh Rahm, Paige Hainy, Ava Gillmore, Emily Muller. (Back row) coaches Tim Terfehr, Cory Hainy, Eric Muller. (Photo courtesy of Cory Hainy)

The Fairmont 14U softball team ended its season as champions.

For the final tournament of the summer season, the 14U team traveled to Watertown, South Dakota to play in the North American Fastpitch Association Class ‘C’ Northern Nationals tournament. Though the tournament is named a national tournament, Fairmont co-head coach Cory Hainy said he wished it would be renamed because it is equivalent to a regional.

“Pretty much, the teams there were us and teams from South Dakota,” Hainy said. “I wish they would rename those things. They call that the Northern Nationals, but they have an Eastern Nationals, a Western Nations and more.”

The Fairmont girls played two pool-play games before playing four bracket games, going 5-1 in the six contests on the strength of an impressive offense.

In pool play, Fairmont won its first game 17-0, on the back of a 13-run third inning. The Fairmont team then lost its second pool-play game 7-5. During the first two games, Emma Gudahl led the offense with a double and four singles, Nevaeh Rahm had four hits, while Kynlie Anderson, Ava Gillmore, Allison Janssen, Johanna Petschke and Paige Hainy each had two hits.

Janssen, Rahm and Mandy Pytleski handled pitching duties during pool play, with Janssen pitching two shutout innings and allowing one hit and one walk with a strikeout. Rahm pitched five innings and allowed one run on no hits, six walks and collected six strikeouts and Pytleski threw three innings, while giving up six runs on eight hits and five walks.

Cory Hainy said the strength of the team, not just through the tournament, but through the season, has been the offense.

“The way we hit the ball was pretty amazing,” Hainy said. “You might think, ‘Well, you scored a bunch of runs, the pitching must have been terrible.’ Not everybody was scoring the way we were against the same pitchers. A lot of the scores from that tournament were 6-5 or 3-1, one of the teams gave up only one run in two games and we scored 10 on them. … We just really, really hit the ball well. It wasn’t elite pitching, but other teams were scoring 4, 5, 6, runs and we were putting up 12, 14, one game 18.”

Hainy credits the offensive success to quality players, he said the coaches always work with the players to learn hitting strategias, such as the difference between a good pitch when the count is 2-0 or 0-2.

He said the team often trains offensively by hitting the ball off the tee, but never does it just to get swings. He said the coaches will move the tee to help the girls get used to inside and outside pitches and learn how to hit the ball to the opposite field.

The offensive strength came through during bracket play, with Fairmont winning all four bracket games with large margins. Fairmont won its first bracket game 10-2 in five innings, when Anderson, Chantel Moeller, Rahm and Pytleski each had two hits and Janssen pitched all five frames, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks.

Fairmont then won 18-2 in four innings to earn a spot in the tournament semifinal. Fairmont scored six runs in the second inning, then after the first two batters of the fourth frame were retired, the next 11 reached base safely to score 10 runs. The Fairmont girls combined for 20 hits, led by Gudahl who was a home run away from the cycle, and Moeller who had a double and two singles, while Rahm had three singles. Every batter in Fairmont’s lineup had a hit and Janssen pitched another complete game, this time allowing two runs on five hits and one walk, while striking out six.

Fairmont faced the Madison Thunderstruck in the semifinal game and won 7-2. Janssen pitched yet another complete game, allowing two runs on seven hits and three walks, while collecting five strikeouts. The offense collected 13 hits, led by Rahm with three, Emily Muller with a double and a single and Anderson, Ashley Muller and Pytleski who each had two singles.

Fairmont went on to beat the Yankton Fury in the championship game 16-4 in four innings. Fairmont collected another 19 hits. Janssen went 4-for-4 with a double and three singles, while Emily Muller had four singles, Anderson had three and Ava Terfehr had a double. Janssen once again pitched every inning, allowing four runs on nine hits.

Fairmont combined to hit .491 as a team for the tournament after hitting .379 throughout the season.

The Northern Nationals wasn’t Fairmont’s only tournament win this season, the team ended with a record of 33-14, while winning the St. James tournament and the Fairmont CD tournament. Fairmont placed fifth at the Southern Stars league tournament and fourth at the Tier 4 Minnesota State Tournament.

Hainy said overall this was an excellent season.

“It was tremendous,” Hainy said. “The bulk of these girls have been together since the beginning of spring. I believe they only lost one game in the spring junior high season. They’ve had a very good year all around. They’ve played tournaments and we play some pretty solid competition in league. … That prepares you pretty well because they are quite good. You see some pretty high-level competition, which prepares you for a tournament like this.

“This one was really our only overnight stay this year. It’s a great way to cap the season because you get the level of competition, but you also get the camaraderie with all the girls in the hotel and having those fun moments away from the field. It was a little weird because we knew a storm was coming Sunday, so we were supposed to be done during the middle of the afternoon Saturday.”

Though the team had only one overnight stay together for a tournament this season, Hainy said he believes those create the most memorable moments of summer seasons.

He said having a high-quality 14U team could be a sign of good things to come for future high school teams.

“Well you’d like to hope,” Hainy said. “Things can change, but you like to think so. The way we hit the ball was pretty amazing.”