Cardiac Cardinals returning to Class AA state baseball tourney

DOUBLE-WINNER — Fairmont reliever Ben Moeller fires a pitch to a Luverne batter during the first of two Section 3 baseball games on Thursday night at Island Park in Windom. Moeller went on to accomplish a rarity — he earned both winning pitching decisions as Fairmont swept the back-to-back games to earn its second consecutive trip to the Class AA state baseball tournament that begins Tuesday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud. (Photo by Greg Abel)

WINDOM — The Fairmont baseball team, ranked No. 1 in Class AA and the defending state champs, had to pass a tough test in its Section 3AA championship games against Luverne to keep alive the opportunity to get a chance at back-to-back state titles.

Down to its last three outs not once, but twice, Fairmont beat Luverne 6-4 in 10 innings and 3-2 in eight innings on Thursday night at Island Park in Windom to win the section and make it to the state tournament for the second straight season.

Next up for Fairmont (22-2) is a Class AA state quarterfinal against an opponent yet to be determined at either 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. on Tuesday at the Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud.

Luverne finished its season at 20-6.

“We never felt we were out of it,” Fairmont assistant coach Matt Lytle said after the Game 1 win. “We knew we could do it and we knew we could get it going, which we did.”

Fairmont, winners of the elimination bracket, had to beat Luverne twice to advance. In Game 1, Luverne scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning to take a quick 4-0 lead. The big blow was a bases-clearing double from Will Serie, and Elliot Domagala singled home a fourth run.

Fairmont scored one run in the second inning when Joseph Hackett hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Brendan Schmidtke.

Fairmont’s season looked like it would come to an end, but it rallied to score three runs in the top of the seventh inning to force extra innings.

Luverne’s ace Conner Connell was on the mound, but Fairmont’s Josh Soelter and Hackett started the seventh with singles.

With one out, Lincoln Becker singled home pinch runner Carson Pomerenke and courtesy runner Cole Wiemers scored on Nate Soelter’s single, making it 4-3.

Jack Kosbab grounded out, but Becker scored to tie the game.

Luverne didn’t score and it was on to extra innings.

Neither team scored in the eighth or ninth innings, but in the top of the 10th, Fairmont plated two runs to take a 6-4 lead.

Schmidtke started the inning with a walk and moved to third when Josh Soelter reached on a fielding error.

Hackett’s perfectly-executed squeeze bunt scored Schmidtke with the first run, and Landen Meyerdirk followed with a run-scoring single to score an insurance run.

Becker, Nate Soelter and Josh Soelter each had two hits to lead Fairmont’s offense. Meyerdirk and Hackett also had one hit apiece for Fairmont.

Serie had three hits to lead Luverne’s offense.

Ben Moeller, Fairmont’s third pitcher of the night, retired Luverne in order to earn the win on the mound. He pitched 1 2/3 innings and did not give up a run, no hits, one walk and did not strike out a hitter.

Nate Soelter started and pitched six innings, giving up four earned runs, six hits, three walks and struck out 10 to receive a no-decision. Meyerdirk pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up no runs, one hit, two walks and struck out one.

The rally meant the season came down to one game — beat Luverne again and make it back to the state tournament or lose and end the season.

Once again Luverne jumped out to a quick lead. This time, it scored two runs in the top of the first to take a 2-0 lead.

Fairmont scored one run in the fifth to cut the deficit to 2-1. Meyerdirk reached on a two-out error and advanced to second base on a passed ball. Meyerdirk scored on Becker’s sharp single to right.

Fairmont made a second straight seventh-inning rally.

Josh Soelter was hit by a pitch, moved to second on Hackett’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Meyerdirk’s single.

Moeller was on the mound in relief for a second straight game and retired Luverne, giving his offense an opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Fairmont’s Cooper Steuber started the inning by reaching on a fielding error and scored on Schmidtke’s sacrifice bunt. A throw from first to third trying to cut down Steuber sailed into left field, allowing him to score the winning run.

There was one out when the winning run scored.

Meyerdirk had a team-leading two hits for Fairmont in the second game. Becker, Nate Soelter and Kosbab each had one hit for Fairmont.

Six different players had one hit for Luverne.

Moeller was the winning pitcher again, pitching 3 2/3 innings in relief. He did not give up a run, gave up three hits, one walk and struck out one.

Jensen Livesay started, going 4 1/3 innings. He gave up two earned runs, three hits, two walks, hit one batter and struck out four.

For Luverne, Zachary DeBoer was the losing pitcher, giving up one run, two hits, and struck out one in his one inning.

Jacob Stroh pitched the first six innings, giving up three hits, one walk, hit two batters and struck out three for Luverne to receive a no-decision.

(Game 1)

F    010 000 300 2–6 8 0

L   400 000 000 0–4 7 3

Nate Soelter, Landen Meyerdirk (7), Ben Moeller (9, WP) and Joseph Hackett. Zachary DeBoer, Conner Connell, Carter Sehr (9, LP) and Landon Ahrendt.

LOB–Fairmont 9. Luverne 8. 2B–Will Serie (LUV). SAC–Joseph Hackett (FMT), Riley Sneller (LUV). SF–Joseph Hackett (FMT).

(Game 2)

LUV   200 000 00–2 6 5

FMT   000 010 11–3 5 0

Jacob Stroh, Zachary DeBoer (7, LP) and Landon Ahrendt. Jensen Livesay, Ben Moeller (5, WP) and Joseph Hackett.

LOB–Luverne 7. Fairmont 8. SAC–Brendan Schmidtke (FMT), Joseph Hackett (FMT).


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