Fairmont zips Blue Earth for senior league crown
BLUE EARTH — Three months ago, the Minnesota American Legion baseball season was officially cancelled.
Sunday, Cale Steuber fired a two-hit shutout, while five different Fairmont batters produced two hits apiece to power the No. 2 seed to the Southwest Minnesota senior league baseball tournament’s championship at Veterans Field in Blue Earth.
Dalen Keltgen went 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and three runs scored, while Steuber notched five strikeouts in pitching a complete-game gem to pace Fairmont’s 13-0, five-inning triumph over No. 1-seeded Blue Earth.
Fairmont (9-1) qualified for the senior league regional tournament in LaCrescent, which is scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 14.
“Six weeks ago, it didn’t look like we’d have a season, but we (former legion coaches) managed to put together a modified ‘league’ schedule,” said Blue Earth coach Brent Legred. “Hopefully, this will be the first and only ‘league’ championship of its kind, and we return to legion baseball next summer.”
“We realized what was at stake, maintained our focus and our bats came out hot during the top of the first inning, and then Cale and our defense did the rest,” said Fairmont coach Matt Lytle.
Joey Flohrs delivered a clutch two-run double with two out to trigger Fairmont’s three-run initial at-bat before Blake Buntjer followed with an RBI double.
Steuber retired Blue Earth in order during the home half of the first before Fairmont’s batting lineup erupted for five more runs in the top of the second.
Gavin Rodning drew a leadoff walk, eventually reached third base on back-to-back singles by Eli Anderson and Zach Jorgensen, and crossed the plate with the first of his three runs scored on Zach Soelter’s sacrifice fly.
A throwing error during the sequence allowed another run to score before Jorgensen perfectly timed his approach and made a rare steal of home. A wild pitch and one of Blue Earth’s four errors allowed Fairmont to widen its lead to 8-0 heading into the bottom of the second.
Koby Nagel drilled a one-out single back through the box in the second to spoil Steuber’s no-hit bid before Keltgen halted a potential rally by gloving a line-drive off Keegan O’Brien’s bat at shortstop.
Rodning singled to lead off Fairmont’s third at-bat and scored when Soelter lofted his second sacrifice fly of the championship for a 9-0 edge.
Steuber later allowed Anders Fering’s one-out double in the fourth before closing out his two-hit shutout by facing just one over the limit in the bottom of the fifth.
“Steuber kept his pitch count low, and that made it easier on the coaches (Lytle and Levi Becker) to keep him on the mound and not to have to make any pitching changes,” Lytle said with a grin.
Keltgen’s two-run double proved pivotal in the top of the fifth, staking Fairmont to an 11-0 lead on the scoreboard. Following a run-allowing error, Buntjer lined an RBI single to push the margin to 13-0.
Soelter, Keltgen, Flohrs, Buntjer and Anderson each finished with two hits for Fairmont.
Nagel allowed nine runs — only four earned — on seven hits, walked four and did not record a strikeout in 2 1/3 innings to take the loss for Blue Earth.
FMT 351 04 — 13 12 1
BE 000 00 — 0 2 4
Cale Steuber (WP) and Zach Jorgensen. Koby Nagel (LP), Keegan O’Brien (3) and Karson Legred.
LOB–Fairmont 7, Blue Earth Area 4. 2B–Dalen Keltgen (FMT), Joey Flohrs (FMT), Blake Buntjer (FMT), Anders Fering (BE). SF–Zach Soelter (FMT) 2.
Fairmont 14, Jackson 4 (6 innings) — Blake Buntjer hammered a walk-off grand slam home run to cap Fairmont’s seven-run offensive surge in the bottom of the sixth inning during Saturday’s clash of senior league tournament unbeatens in Blue Earth.
After Jackson utilized Peyton Handevidt’s double, Alex Bretzman’s RBI single and Andrew Hesebeck’s RBI double to narrow Fairmont’s lead to 7-4 in the top of the sixth inning, Gavin Rodning drew a leadoff walk to set the table for Fairmont during the home half.
Eli Anderson drilled a double before Rodning crossed the plate on Zach Jorgensen’s fourth hit of the game — an RBI single to right — to double Fairmont’s gap to 8-4.
Zach Soelter and Dalen Keltgen drew back-to-back walks, with Keltgen collecting one RBI in the process. Joey Flohrs legged out an infield hit near the mound for another RBI to keep the bases loaded.
Buntjer, who finished 2-for-4, quickly emptied the base paths by smacking the first pitch over the left-field fence for a four-run HR to end the game via the 10-run rule in the sixth.
Logan Butzon doubled and scored on Handevidt’s RBI triple before Handevidt safely reached the plate on Bretzman’s perfect suicide-squeeze bunt to stake Jackson to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Fairmont knotted the game via a solo run in the first on a balk by Jackson starting pitcher Andrew Hesebeck before another run scored on a wild pitch in the second.
Fairmont then sent 11 to the batter’s box during the last of the fifth to plate five runs for a 7-2 lead. Jorgensen’s two-run double triggered the No. 2 seed’s two-out offensive outburst before Soelter legged out an infield hit. Keltgen and Flohrs contributed RBI singles to created a five-run lead on the scoreboard.
Jorgensen went 4-for-4 with a double and triple, generated three RBIs and scored three runs for Fairmont.
Flohrs, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs offensively, pitched a complete game to earn the victory for Fairmont. The right-hander displayed stellar control by recording five strikeouts without issuing a walk in six innings of work. Flohrs allowed four earned runs on six hits.
Handevidt doubled and tripled for one RBI in three at-bats for Jackson, while teammate Dalton Henning added a one-out double in the fifth.
Jackson 200 002 — 4 6 3
Fairmont 110 057 — 14 14 0
Winning run scored with no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Blue Earth 14, Jackson 4 (5 innings) — Koby Nagel nearly drilled a walk-off two-run HR with two out in the bottom of the fifth, but settled for a double before the No. 1 seed tallied two runs to eliminate Jackson from the playoffs via the 10-run-rule Saturday.
Nagel went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and scored three runs to pace Blue Earth’s seven-hit performance. Nagel reached on one of Jackson’s six errors in the first inning, singled in the second, tripled in the third and doubled in the fifth.
After manufacturing six first-inning runs without the benefit of a hit — combining two hit batters, one walk and five Jackson miscues, the trio of Nagel, Keegan O’Brien and Kean Hicks highlighted the home team’s five-run breakthrough in the last of the second.
Nagel unleashed a run-scoring single, O’Brien cranked a two-run double and Hicks swatted an RBI double to help build an 11-1 lead after two complete frames. Logan O’Hara’s single and Nagel’s RBI triple in the third widened the home team’s margin to 12-1.
Bretzman singled, Andrew Hesebeck doubled and Dalton Henning singled both teammates home to help whittle Jackson’s deficit to 12-4. Erik Hesebeck’s RBI double in the second helped spoil Blue Earth’s shutout bid.
Kyle Hagedorn’s two-out walk set the stage for Blue Earth’s fifth-inning run production to exit Veterans Field early on Saturday. Nagel then rocketed a double off the left-field fence, just missing a game-ending HR.
Luke Mertens, who was walked, got plunked for the second time in the game to load the bases. O’Brien collected his third RBI on the game when he was hit by a pitch before Nagel scored the game-winner on a wild pitch.
Mertens delivered a backhanded defensive gem during the top of the first before making a diving stab to his left and pegging out the Jackson runner after popping to his feet in the second frame.
Nagel allowed one unearned run on one hit, struck out one and walked one in two innings of work to net the win for Blue Earth.
Adam Schavey chipped in one hit and one RBI for Blue Earth.
Bretzman went 2-for-3 with a double and one run scored for Jackson.
Logan Butzon gave up six unearned runs in one hitless inning to take the loss for Jackson. He walked one and plunked two batters.
Jackson 010 30 — 4 5 6
Bl. Earth 651 02 — 14 7 3
Winning run scored with two out in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Blue Earth 8, Windom 6 — Anders Fering’s two-run HR capped Blue Earth’s four-run bottom of the first before the No. 1 seed fended off Windom’s late comeback during Saturday’s first elimination game in Blue Earth.
Logan O’Hara, who went 2-for-3, doubled off the left-field fence before scoring on Hunter Bleess’ RBI single. Bleess, who stole second base, then scored on Karson Legred’s RBI single to left. Legred later reached the plate on Fering’s towering two-run shot to right field for a quick 4-0 lead.
Kean Hicks then doubled in the second inning and eventually crossed the plate on Adam Schavey’s RBI groundout for a 5-0 lead for Blue Earth.
Trenton Renquist, who went 2-for-2 with two extra-base hits, doubled and later scored Windom’s solo run in the top of the third on Brayden Kreofsky’s RBI single. Hunter Walklin singled, but Hicks threw out the lead Windom runner trying to score.
Henry Erickson belted an RBI triple before Renquist duplicated the feat to highlight Windom’s three-run breakout during the top of the fourth to narrow its deficit to 5-4.
Nagel bunted his way to first base, reached third on an errant pickoff at first and scored when Mertens cranked his second double of the game. Hicks later singled before Schavey’s RBI sacrifice bunt extended Blue Earth’s lead to 7-4 in the last of the fifth.
Windom inched its way within one on the strength of Kreofsky’s single, Erickson’s sacrifice fly and Austin Doorenbos’ run-scoring single in the top of the sixth.
O’Hara, Bleess, Mertens and Hicks each collected two of Blue Earth’s 11 hits on the game.
O’Hara struck out eight, walked three and allowed six runs — only two earned — on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings to garner the win. Kyle Hagedorn allowed one hit in 1 1/3 innings of relief to net the save for Blue Earth.
Renquist went 2-for-2 with a double and triple, scored three runs and added one RBI for Windom, while Kreofsky went 2-for-4 with one RBI.
Walklin gave up five earned runs on six hits and walked one in 2 innings of work took the loss.