Cardinals baseball set to throw out first pitch at home
FAIRMONT — It’s been 674 days since the Fairmont Cardinals played an official high school baseball game.
Fairmont head coach Don Waletich knows the above number all too well as he’s been anxiously awaiting the chance to relieve the sting of his Cardinals’ narrow 3-2 loss to Luverne in the Section 3AA tournament’s next-to-last elimination game on June 4, 2019, in Jackson.
Fairmont’s baseball program has seen numerous changes — and not just all the pandemic protocols — since that season-ending down-to-the-wire playoff game 22 months ago.
Cardinal co-head coach Jerry Brooks stepped down to develop the high school’s aviation program, C-squad coach Adam Schmidt made the switch to junior varsity softball, and former Fairmont standouts Matt Lytle and Levi Becker joined Waletich’s coaching staff.
“We graduated 14 seniors from last year’s team, so we’re very young and inexperienced in regards to most of our upperclassmen due to missing the entire season last spring,” said Waletich, who guided the Cardinals to an impressive 15-8 record in 2019.
Junior Eli Anderson started at third base for the Fairmont varsity during the latter stages of his freshman campaign before playing an integral role in the Fairmont Martins winning the Minnesota Class ‘C’ state amateur baseball championship last summer.
“We’ll be leaning on Eli and Jorgy (junior Zach Jorgensen) for stats and to be our leaders on the diamond this spring,” said Waletich. “They’ve both had a lot of success on the football field together, so we have a lot of confidence in their skills.”
Therefore, Waletich will look for Anderson and Jorgensen to fill two pivotal defensive roles for the Cardinals — on the mound and at shortstop.
“Jorgy and (junior) Jacob Crissinger will probably be our top two pitchers, Eli will see time on the mound, while (junior) Preston Vaughn and (freshman) Nate Soelter will get some innings, too,” Waletich said in reference to his rotation.
Jorgensen and Anderson also will anchor the left side of the Fairmont infield when not toeing the pitching rubber, competing for time at shortstop and third base, with Soelter also figuring in the mix at the “hot corner.”
Senior Jackson Utermarck will get the start behind the plate for the Cardinals, with Anderson and Jorgensen providing stellar signal-calling if called upon in a reserve role.
Sophomore Jack Kosbab and sophomore Brendan Schmidtke will battle for the job at first base, while sophomore Lincoln Becker and junior Hayden Clabaugh will compete with the versatile Soelter for innings at second base.
Junior Gavin Rodning will anchor the Cardinals’ outfield from his starting spot in center, according to Waletich, with freshman Levi Pooley, sophomore Landen Meyerdirk, Brendan Schmidtke and Utermarck also vying for possible time in the outfield.
“We don’t have a set lineup yet, but we’ll get it figured out for our season-opener,” a smiling Waletich said in reference to his Cardinals’ debut against Big South Conference rival St. Peter at 5:30 p.m. today at Herb Wolf Field in Fairmont.
“Our goal is pretty simple this season: Help these young men grow into the sport of baseball and in life in general,” said Waletich. “We may take some lumps early, but I think by mid-season we’ll be competitive.”