FHS reaches AA state finale

ST. CLOUD – Fairmont’s ‘contusion kids’ literally struck hard and vice versa at Dick Putz Field on Friday to reach the Class AA state baseball championship game.

Tyler Tennyson, Jack Waletich and Luke Becker combined for 10 hits and 10 RBIs to trigger the Cardinals’ 16-hit explosion to ground the Kasson-Mantorville-KoMets in the state semifinals, 19-3 in five innings, in St. Cloud.

Fairmont (25-1), who extended its single-season school winning streak to 25 in a row, faces St. Cloud Cathedral (26-1) for the Class AA state crown at 3 p.m. Monday at Target Field in Minneapolis. The game was originally scheduled for today, but was moved due to a forecast for heavy rain and thunderstorms for the Twin Cities area.

St. Cloud Cathedral, who also carries a 25-game winning streak into the postseason finale, shut out Glencoe-Silver Lake 6-0 in Friday’s other semifinal.

Glencoe-Silver Lake (19-5) went on to defeat Kasson-Mantorville (22-6), the 2013 Class AA state champion, in the third-place game 12-4.

“We’ve brought good hitting teams to state in the past (2010-12), but didn’t always come away with a lot of hits,” said Cardinal mentor Todd Sukalski. “I think we took out four years of frustration in today’s game.

“Not only does this team hit the ball with authority, but every player knows how to get on base.”

Fairmont helped improve its already high on-base percentage during the first two games of the state tournament by getting hit by opposing pitchers’ deliveries a staggering and unofficial record 11 times, including seven in Friday’s semifinal.

In fact, KoMet freshman right-hander Brandon Knoll plunked three Cardinal batters during a six-run top of the first inning before K-M relievers Jayden Prigge and Austin Yeigh plunked two Fairmont hitters each.

Waletich, who went 3-for-5 with four RBIs, drilled Knoll’s second offering of the game into center before a KoMet error on Becker’s grounder one out later opened the floodgates.

Knoll hit Jay Ruen to load the bases before Tennyson hammered a pitch into left field to produce two of his co-game-high four RBIs.

“I took tons of batting practice to work on my swing, but more importantly, I had teammates telling me not to get down on myself about going 0-for-4 in the first game Thursday,” said Tennyson, who topped all players with a 4-for-5 performance. “That support really helped my confidence today.”

Knoll then hit Gillis with a pitch to load the bases again before Parker Monsen lined an RBI single to left. One out later, No. 9 batter Matt Lytle started off a bruise-filled day in the batter’s box by getting hit for the first of three times on the state semifinal.

“I didn’t do anything special – I just got hit,” said a smiling Lytle, who also walked and collected two RBIs via getting plunked.

Waletich then drilled a two-run single to right-center to end Knoll’s state debut at 2/3s of an inning before Prigge finally ended Fairmont’s initial at-bat.

Becker pitched three shutout innings while the Cardinal offense erupted for two more runs in both the second and third to widen the gap to 10-0.

Becker, who went 3-for-5 with a home run, a triple and two RBIs, singled to lead off the Fairmont second inning. The all-star series selection swiped second and sprinted home on Tennyson’s RBI single one out later.

Monsen singled with two out, Ben Abel was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Lytle was plunked to earn another RBI.

Becker then assisted his own cause by blasting a one-out triple into the right-field corner to open the top of the third. Becker then trotted home on Jay Ruen’s RBI double before Ruen and Tennyson literally traded places on Tennyson’s run-scoring two-base hit.

The KoMets, however, managed to spoil Becker’s shutout bid by stringing together four consecutive hits during the last of the fourth to generate three runs.

Prigge and Kyle Nichols delivered back-to-back singles before Collin Ripley singled both of his teammates to the plate. Ripley then scored on Hayden Sheeran’s towering RBI triple to deep center.

Becker worked out of the no-out jam by recording two of his three strikeouts on the game.

Fairmont then sent 12 players to the batter’s box to erupt for nine runs on six hits and two more hit batters during the top of the fifth to put the game out of reach.

Ruen and Tennyson singled with one out before Gillis smacked an RBI double off the ivy-covered wall in left.

Monsen was hit by a pitch, Abel drew a bases-loaded walk, Gillis scored on a wild pitch, Lytle was hit for the third time and Waletich drilled a two-run double down the first-base line.

Spencer Chirpich contributed a two-run single before Becker launched his school-record 10th home run of the season – a two-run round-tripper over the right-field wall.

All nine Fairmont players scored at least one run and generated at least one RBI on the state semifinal.

Becker allowed three runs on nine hits, struck out three and walked one in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory and improve to 8-0 on the season.

Knoll allowed six runs – all unearned – on four hits, and hit three batters in 2/3s of an inning to take the loss for K-M.

FHS 622 09 – 19 16 1

K-M 000 30 – 3 9 2

Luke Becker (WP, 8-0) and Ben Abel. Brandon Knoll (LP), Jayden Prigge (1), Riley Knutson (3), Austin Yeigh (5), Isiah McAdams (5) and Collin Ripley.

LOB-Fairmont 7; K-M 6. 2B-Jack Waletich (F), Jay Ruen (F), Tyler Tennyson (F), Nathan Gillis (F), Riley Knoepke (KM). 3B-Becker (F), Hayden Sheeran (KM). HR-Becker (F).