Cardinals slide by Mavs for crown

WELCOME – Matt Lytle crunched numbers and solved problems while taking his ACT test on Saturday morning.

Lytle later compiled impressive pitching numbers to help Fairmont find a solution in edging host Martin County West, 4-2, during the Maverick baseball tournament’s championship game at the Fox Lake Area Sports Complex.

The Cardinals’ junior right-hander registered seven strikeouts, issued only one walk and gave up one unearned run in five hitless innings of relief to earn the winning decision in Game 2.

While Lytle was holding a No. 2 pencil earlier, sophomore right-hander Clayton Maakestad was holding Mountain Lake Area in check for six innings in Game 1 in Welcome.

Maakestad allowed two runs on eight hits, fanned five and issued one walk in six innings of work to help pace Fairmont’s 9-3 opening victory over the Wolverines.

“I thought all three of our pitchers threw well today,” Cardinal mentor Todd Sukalski said in reference to Lytle, Maakestad and Game 1 closer/Game 2 starter Nathan Gillis. “Those guys gave us some quality innings.”

Gillis, who worked the seventh inning to preserve the win against MLA, pitched two solid frames against MCW before moving to the outfield with Fairmont trailing 1-0.

Alex Biehn lined a leadoff double inside the right-field corner, advanced to third base on Alex Saxen’s sacrifice bunt and crossed the plate on Michael Andrews’ RBI single down the third base line during the Mavericks’ home half of the second inning.

Cole Spear later reached on an error, moved to second when Tony Payne walked and scored MCW’s second run on a Fairmont miscue for a 2-0 lead through four full frames.

“I thought our guys did a nice job of maintaining their composure even when we trailed 2-0 going into the middle innings,” said Sukalski.

Sophomore Tyler Tennyson served as the Cardinals’ comeback catalyst during the top of the fifth by reaching on an infield hit before motoring all the way to third on Luke Becker’s single up the middle.

Jay Ruen halved Fairmont’s deficit with an RBI groundout that plated Tennyson before Becker scored the tying run on sophomore Jack Waletich’s towering RBI double to center.

Waletich stayed put when Ben Abel legged out a nubber just past the mound before both runners moved into scoring position on a passed ball. Lytle then drove in Waletich with the go-ahead run on an RBI fielder’s choice.

Cole Emler and Spencer Chirpich, who also missed the opener due to ACT testing, reached on a walk and a single, respectively, during the Fairmont sixth. Emler later scored an insurance run on Tennyson’s groundout.

Lytle retired the final 12 Mavericks he faced to cap his winning pitching performance in relief.

Maverick starting pitcher Alex Saxen allowed three hits and issued four walks in 3 2/3 scoreless innings of work to receive no decision in the tournament finale.

Biehn gave up four runs – three earned – on four hits, fanned one and walked one in 1 1/3 innings of relief to take the loss for MCW.

Earlier, Maakestad gave up his only two runs during the top of the first against MLA before the Fairmont rookie hurler settled into a pitching rhythm over the next five frames.

Alex Gerdes, who went 3-for-4, and Austin Watkins each produced RBI singles for the Wolverines during their initial at-bat in Game 1.

The Cardinals, however, countered quickly in the home half of the first with a pair of runs. Tennyson launched a one-out double to center before scoring on Waletich’s RBI single to center. Waletich, who went 3-for-4 in Game 1, later scored the tying run on Abel’s RBI single to left.

Waletich then drilled a clutch two-run double to center to highlight Fairmont’s four-run second at-bat before Maakestad assisted his own cause with a fourth-inning RBI single.

Tennyson, who had walked, then scored his third run of Game 1 when Becker deposited a two-run homer over the right-field fence during the home half of the sixth.

MCW reached the tournament finale on the strength of right-hander Tony Payne’s two-hit complete-game gem during a 6-1 victory over Southwestern United.

Payne struck out five, walked one and gave up one unearned run on two hits in seven innings of work to earn the win.

Toby Haugen went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored three runs for the Mavericks in the opener, while Michael Andrews chipped in two hits. Payne supplied a double, while Matt Moeller added a single.

Martin County West (2-2) is idle until playing host to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial on Tuesday, April 22, in Welcome.

Fairmont (2-1) travels to Lake Crystal on Monday.


FHS 000 031 0 – 4 8 2

MCW 010 100 0 – 2 2 1

Nathan Gillis, Matt Lytle (3, WP) and Ben Abel. Alex Saxen, Alex Biehn (4, LP), Cole Spear (6) and Toby Haugen.

LOB-FHS 8; MCW 1. 2B-Jack Waletich (FHS), Gillis (FHS), Biehn (MCW). SAC-Saxen (MCW).

(Game 1)

MLA 200 000 1 – 3 9 1

FHS 240 102 x – 9 8 1

Austin Watkins (LP), Tyler Duerksen (4) and Jacob Suess. Clayton Maakestad (WP), Nathan Gillis (7) and Abel.

LOB-FHS 6; MLA 8. 2B-Tyler Tennyson (FHS), Jack Waletich (FHS), Duerksen (MLA). HR-Luke Becker (FHS).

Fairmont split a pair of junior varsity baseball games during Saturday’s Maverick Invitational in Welcome.

Mountain Lake Area edged Fairmont, 6-2, in the opener.

Eli Green singled and doubled to top the Cardinals’ offense, while Clayton Maakestad chipped in double.

Kale Fritz pitched four innings, allowed three runs – two earned – on three hits. Fritz struck out eight and walked three.

Ryan Brooks gave up three runs on two hits and walked three in two innings of relief for Fairmont.

Nate Johnson, Parker Monsen and Michael Hawkins each produced RBI singles to help pace Fairmont’s 4-2 win over Southwestern United in Game 2.

Evan Closs, Green and Maakestad each chipped in hits for the Cardinals.

Cole Emler struck out two and did not issue a walk in three shutout innings of one-hit pitching.

Green allowed one hit, struck out two and walked two in two innings of relief, while Monsen gave up two runs on two hits and walked one in pitching the final frame.

Fairmont junior varsity (2-1) travels to Lake Crystal today.