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Fairmont Post 36 places 3rd at first-ever state legion softball tournament

HISTORIC TEAM — Fairmont American Legion Post 36 softball team members, front row (l-r): Ilana Moeller, Reese Olson, Abi Sundeen, Allison Janssen, Emma Gudahl, Jaya Johnson, Annabel Oskerson, Mandy Pytleski and Emily Muller, along with back row (l-r): Nevaeh Rahm, Chloe Miller, coach Eric Muller, Tiffany Lowry, Cassidy Schultz and coach Aaron Lowry, captured third place in the first-ever Minnesota American Legion state softball tournament at Jaycee Park in Mankato on Sunday. Not pictured: Coach Cory Hainy. (Photo by Greg Abel)

MANKATO — The Fairmont Post 36 softball lineup produced a historic third-place finish during the first-ever Minnesota American Legion state tournament at Jaycee Park in Mankato on Sunday.

Ace right-hander Allison Janssen fired a four-hit complete-game gem and Abi Sundeen smacked a pivotal bases-loaded double to propel Fairmont to a 7-1 state quarterfinal victory over Parkers Prairie Post 219 on Saturday.

Anna Bamlet hurled a four-hit complete game, Nora Bamlet produced three RBIs and Jo Tempel went 3-for-4 with two runs scored to guide Hayfield Post 330 to a 6-1 championship semifinal win over Fairmont on Saturday afternoon.

Janssen returned to the chalked circle and struck out eight in pitching her second complete game at the two-day state event, while Cassidy Schultz went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple, collected three RBIs and scored three runs to power Fairmont to a 12-5 triumph over Howard Lake Post 145 during Sunday’s third-place contest at Jaycee Park.

“I was definitely nervous coming into today’s game against Howard Lake since this was the third time we’ve played them in the last week,” Janssen said in reference to Post 36’s 6-5 comeback win over Howard Lake in last Sunday’s sub-state opener and eventual 10-4 victory over Post 145 in the sub-state championship in Danube. “The top of their batting order has good hitters, so I trusted that my teammates would make the plays behind me today.

“When your defense is as good as ours was today, you can relax and throw a lot of strikes and not worry about them scoring.”

Janssen and Howard Lake right-hander Callie Elg locked up in a shutout pitchers’ duel through the third-place game’s initial four frames before Fairmont erupted for six runs on six hits in the top of the fifth.

Ilana Moeller both triggered and capped Post 36’s offensive breakout with a pair of singles, with Reese Olson and Sundeen drawing back-to-back walks from Elg in the fifth to jam the bases.

Emma Gudahl and Janssen each drilled RBI singles to build a 2-0 lead in the Fairmont fifth without an out. Schultz then crushed the third of her four extra-base hits on the tournament, hammering a towering three-run triple to the right-center gap for a 5-0 margin. Schultz then scored Post 36’s sixth run courtesy of Mandy Pytleski’s RBI groundout before Jaya Johnson and Moeller generated back-to-back hits. Howard Lake reliever Nora Goelz closed the door on Fairmont’s run production by notching a strikeout and gloving a comebacker to keep the game at 6-0.

Kate Bednarchuk and Bre Decker answered for Howard Lake by collecting singles during the bottom of the fifth before Bree Driver tripled and AJ Smith singled to generate three runs to pare their deficit in half.

Gudahl, who reached base four times — including a single and two walks, was plunked by a pitch to open Fairmont’s sixth at-bat. Janssen replaced Gudahl on a fielder’s choice before Schultz and Pytleski generated back-to-back hits to load the bases. Johnson then delivered a clutch two-run single with two outs to rebuild Post 36’s lead to 8-3.

Ironically, Schultz’s double proved the only hit during Fairmont’s momentum-shifting four-run top of the seventh inning. Olson walked, Sundeen was plunked and Olson later scored on a wild pitch. Gudahl walked before Janssen collected one RBI via a mishandled grounder, with another run crossing the plate on Howard Lake’s error. Pytleski later drove home Schultz, who had reached third base on the throw to the plate earlier, to widen Fairmont’s lead to 12-3.

Driver’s key double plated two runs for Howard Lake in the last of the seventh inning before Janssen got an infield popout and recorded her eighth strikeout of the third-place game to seal the victory.

Janssen displayed outstanding control by issuing only one walk, while allowing five runs — only two earned — on 10 hits in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory.

Schultz’s three-hit performance topped Fairmont’s 11-hit effort, while Pytleski, Johnson and Ilana Moeller generated two hits apiece, with Pytleski and Johnson knocking home two runs each.

Driver went 2-for-4 with a double, a triple and two RBIs for Howard Lake, while AJ Smith and Bednarchuk each supplied two hits on the contest.

Callie Elg allowed six runs on five hits, walked five and struck out four in 4 1/3 innings pitched to take the loss for Howard Lake.

In Saturday’s state quarterfinal, Janssen recorded nine strikeouts without issuing a walk in seven innings pitched to earn the complete-game win. Janssen allowed one unearned run on four hits.

Sundeen’s three-run double highlighted Post 36’s four-run bottom of the fourth to break open a 3-1 score against Parkers Prairie.

Emily Muller went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored for Fairmont, Schultz doubled in a run and crossed the plate once, while Janssen delivered an RBI single.

Gudahl went 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, Johnson and Ilana Moeller chipped in one hit each, while Olson added a bases-loaded RBI walk.

Schultz tripled and scored Post 36’s only run in the 6-1 state semifinal loss to Hayfield. Pytleski generated an RBI groundout, Gudahl went 2-for-4 and Sundeen singled in two at-bats to round out Fairmont’s semifinal offense.

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