ST. CLOUD - Fairmont's batting order maximized the minimum Thursday, while Cardinal freshman ace right-hander Spencer Chirpich minimized Roseau's hits during the Class AA state baseball quarterfinals in St. Cloud.
Chirpich fired a five-hit complete-game gem, while teammates Michael Forster and Bryce Holm delivered pivotal run-producing hits - two of only three total - to help the Cardinals squeeze by the Rams, 3-2, at Dick Putz Field in a game delayed by five hours due to heavy rains earlier in the morning.
Fairmont (25-3) advances to face Holy Family Catholic (23-4) - an 8-0 quarterfinal winner over Cannon Falls - in today's noon state semifinal clash back at Dick Putz Field.
CALLED SAFE — Fairmont catcher Mitch Pfingsten applies the tag to Roseau runner Alex Strand at the plate during Class AA state baseball quarterfinal action Thursday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud. Strand was ruled safe on the play. Photo by Chip Pearson
"He met the challenge one more time today. He's made six starts and won all six decisions against quality teams," Cardinal mentor Todd Sukalski said in reference to Chirpich, who hurled his fourth complete game of the season to improve his overall record to 8-1.
After the hard-throwing Chirpich consistently worked ahead in the count to retire Roseau in order during the top of the first inning, Forster produced the most important hit of his prep baseball career with two out in the home half.
"I think I'm seeing the ball better and just trying to drive it more this year," said Forster, who hammered a key two-run double to stake Fairmont to an early 2-0 edge in the bottom of the first. Levi Becker, who started the two-out rally with a single, and courtesy runner Ben Gratz scored on Forster's critical extra-base hit. Gratz was running for Mitch Pfingsten, who drew a walk from Roseau ace left-hander Logan Hulst.
"Michael's hit really set the tone and put us in the lead right away, and that's crucial in a close game like this," said Sukalski. "Bryce came up with another key hit for us in the fourth after Mitch reached for the second time in the game. Getting on without a hit was big, too."
Hulst plunked Pfingsten with a delivery in the bottom of the fourth, courtesy runner Gratz reached second on Forster's sacrifice bunt and crossed the plate when Holm lined an RBI single into right-center for a 3-1 margin.
Holm's clutch hit answered Rams leadoff batter Alex Strand's RBI single during the top of the third.
Nick Anderson and Austin Halvorson generated back-to-back singles to start Roseau's third at-bat before Strand lined a single to right to plate Anderson and cut Fairmont's lead in half at 2-1.
After retiring the side in the fifth, Chirpich allowed a leadoff single to Strand in the sixth before the speedy shortstop reached second base on a delivery in the dirt.
Strand eventually scored when he accelerated to third base after being checked on Ben Vatnsdal's fielder's choice.
The ensuing throw to third skipped into foul territory, allowing Strand to slide home safely to narrow the gap to 3-2.
Chirpich, however, displayed the mettle of a seasoned veteran by recording two of his five strikeouts on the game to keep the differential at one run. Fairmont's freshman hurler then worked around a walk and Nick Anderson's second single of the game during the seventh to seal the stately victory.
Hulst allowed three runs on three hits, fanned four and walked two in six innings of work to receive his first loss of the season in eight decisions.
Roseau (20-6) faces Cannon Falls (20-6) in today's 10 a.m. consolation state semifinal at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud.
Roseau 001 001 0 - 2 5 0
FHS 200 100 x - 3 3 1
Logan Hulst (LP) and Austin Halvorson. Spencer Chirpich (WP) and Mitch Pfingsten.
LOB-Fairmont 3; Roseau 4. 2B-Michael Forster (F). SAC-Luke Becker (F), Forster (F).