Fairmont gains Section 3AA finale
MARSHALL – Jay Ruen did not waste any time in delivering a pivotal RBI single during Part 2 of Class AA No. 3-ranked Fairmont’s suspended Section 3 baseball clash with No. 8-ranked Luverne on Monday.
Ruen lined reliever Gunnar Olson’s delivery into left field to extend Fairmont’s lead to 5-2 during the top of the fourth – Saturday’s stopping point created by sporadic rain at American Legion Field in Marshall.
Ruen then delivered a clutch two-run single to highlight a five-run outburst in the fifth as Fairmont rolled to an eventual 12-5 playoff victory over defending section champion Luverne.
Fairmont (22-1) awaits the winner between Marshall – a 14-4, six-inning elimination-bracket winner over Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta on Monday – and Luverne in the Section 3AA championship at 5 p.m. Thursday in Windom. Luverne (18-5) and Marshall square off for the final sectional spot at 7 p.m. tonight.
“I thought about what pitch I should look for in that situation, but I also knew I didn’t want the count in his (Olson’s) favor at 1-2 either,” said Ruen, who waited 48 hours to return to the batter’s box with a 1-1 count, the bases loaded and no outs. “I talked a little bit about the situation, but I didn’t think about it that much over the weekend.”
“Give Jay credit for getting us off to a good start today. He turned on that pitch and drove it into left to score one run for us. Gilly (Nathan Gillis) also came through big for us with a sacrifice fly to extend our lead to 6-2 in the fourth,” said Fairmont mentor Todd Sukalski, whose program reached the Section 3AA championship game for a fifth consecutive season. “You have to tip your hats to the way our guys are hitting the ball now. … Sixteen hits against Luverne is the equivalent of our previous three games against them combined.”
Leadoff batter Jack Waletich, who went 4-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored, triggered Fairmont’s initial offensive surge Saturday by opening the game with a home run to right.
Luverne countered in the home half of the first when Connor Hoffman reached on an error and scored on Josh Slieter’s bloop RBI single along the right-field line. Courtesy runner Connor Sandbulte then gave Luverne a 2-1 lead by scoring on Gunnar Olson’s RBI single to right.
Fairmont, however, answered with two runs in the second to regain a one-run edge. Parker Monsen and Ben Abel delivered back-to-back one-out singles before Monsen scampered home on Waletich’s RBI single to right-center.
Abel, who had taken third base on Waletich’s hit, then swung a 3-2 lead to Fairmont when Spencer Chirpich’s grounder to second was mishandled.
Slieter, who started on the mound Saturday, issued back-to-back walks to Matt Lytle and Waletich before Chirpich dropped down a perfect bunt to load the bases in the top of the fourth.
Lytle crossed the plate on a wild pitch before Slieter issued a walk to Luke Becker to fill the bases again, but off-and-on rain Saturday forced the game to be suspended.
Ahead 6-2 after four completed frames Monday, Lytle triggered Fairmont’s five-run fifth-inning avalanche by getting hit by an Olson offering with one out.
Waletich, Chirpich, Becker and Ruen each delivered consecutive singles to generate three runs before Ruen and Becker executed a perfect double steal to net another run. Ruen then scored when Gillis’ grounder was mishandled.
Fairmont added a solo run in the seventh when Tyler Tennyson singled, Gillis doubled and Monsen hit a sky-high, wind-blown RBI single into shallow center.
Becker, who relieved Chirpich on the hill to open Monday’s game, allowed Zane Hiller’s single, Hoffman’s RBI single and Slieter’s two-run hit during the last of the seventh.
Becker, however, got a flyout to close out Fairmont’s seven-run margin of victory. Becker allowed three earned runs on four hits, struck out three and walked three in four innings of relief to net the win.
Chirpich allowed two runs – one earned – on two hits, fanned two and did not issue a walk in three innings on Saturday.
Chirpich, Becker, Ruen, Gillis and Monsen each collected two hits, with Ruen and Gillis producing three and two RBIs, respectively.
FMT 120 350 1 – 12 16 1
LUV 200 000 3 – 5 6 2
Spencer Chirpich, Luke Becker (4, WP) and Ben Abel. Josh Slieter (LP), Gunnar Olson (4), Connor Crabtree (6) and Olson, Connor Sandbulte (4), Logan Norman (6).
LOB-Fairmont 12; Luverne 5. 2B-Luke Becker (F), Nathan Gillis (F), Slieter (L). HR-Jack Waletich (F). SF-Gillis (F). SAC-Kendall Meyer (L).