Bulls trip Martins, gain finals
JACKSON – Jackson leadoff batter Andy Wolf and the Bulls gave the Fairmont Martins a case of deja vu during Sunday’s decisive Game 3 at Wacker Field.
Jackson No. 2 batter Ryan Rasche, however, slightly altered the final ending of the two teams’ best-of-3 Region 13C amateur baseball series.
Rasche delivered the tiebreaking RBI double to the right-center gap to plate Wolf with the game-winning run to steer the Bulls to a 2-1, 10-inning victory over the Martins in Jackson.
No. 1-seeded Jackson (27-2) earned one of the three Region 13 bids to the Class ‘C’ state tournament by reaching the regional championship series against No. 3-seeded Luverne.
The Bulls play host to the Redbirds in Game 1 of their best-of-3 series at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night back at Wacker Field in Jackson.
No. 4-seeded Fairmont (22-10) remains in the hunt for a state berth as it travels to No. 2-seeded Wilmont to open their best-of-3 regional series for third place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night.
The Cardinals play the Martins in Game 2 at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Herb Wolf Field in Fairmont. If a Game 3 is needed, the series returns to Wilmont for a 2 p.m. start next Sunday.
Ironically, Wolf reached base in the same exact manner – hit by a delivery – en route to scoring the eventual winning run in the 10th inning of Game 2 of the Jackson-Fairmont playoff series on Friday night in Fairmont.
“Who called me little?” the speedy Wolf said with a laugh when teased about his somewhat diminutive stature during a pre-game talk.
Wolf, however, proved larger than life to Bulls’ fans during Game 3’s extra inning. He reached after getting plunked by Martins reliever Luke Becker with one out during the bottom of the 10th. Rasche then sent a delivery into the right-center gap, with the fleet-footed Wolf motoring all the way around the base paths to clinch the one-run victory.
Fairmont, however, could not capitalize on its best scoring opportunity of the game during the top of the 10th.
Jon Ellis reached on a throwing error, Scott Chirpich was plunked by a Collin Lovell offering and Luke Becker legged out a bunt hit to load the bases for the Martins with no outs.
Lovell, the right-handed pitching draftee from Windom, managed to escape unscathed as he notched back-to-back strikeouts on called thirds before getting a flyout to keep the game at 1-all.
Lovell earned his second consecutive playoff victory in relief, striking out three, hitting one and allowing one hit in 1 1/3 innings. Ironically, he gave up one run in 3 innings of relief on Friday before Wolf’s 10th-inning run swung the winning decision in his direction.
Lovell, however, was not the only draftee to make his mark in Sunday’s game as Fairmont starting pitcher Dustin Pronk, who played for Lakefield during the regular season, hurled nine stellar innings.
Pronk gave up one unearned run on only four hits, struck out four, hit three batters and issued one walk to receive a no-decision.
Kyle Luhmann was hit by a pitch with two out during the bottom of the fifth and later scored all the way from first when Wolf’s single to center skipped away from the Martins’ outfielder.
Fairmont had grabbed an early 1-0 lead during the top of the third when Ellis, ironically, was hit by a pitch, moved to second on Chirpich’s sacrifice bunt and crossed the plate on Levi Becker’s RBI single to left.
Levi Becker and Luke Becker each produced two of the Martins’ five hits on the game, while Jay Ruen chipped in an infield hit.
Wolf and Rasche each tallied two of the Bulls’ six hits, with Zach Copley and Mike Wierson chipping in one hit apiece.
Pat Boggess worked 3 2/3 innings of effective shutout relief for Jackson after stepping to the hill in the sixth. Boggess struck out two, hit one and gave up two hits.
FMT 001 000 000 0 – 1 5 2
JAX 000 010 000 1 – 2 6 1
Winning run scored with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning.
LOB-Fairmont 10; Jackson 8. 2B-Ryan Rasche (J). SAC-Scott Chirpich (F).