NEW ULM - An almost perfect ending to a nearly perfect regular baseball season.
Senior ace right-hander Bryce Holm pitched a one-hit gem, while Class AA, No. 4-ranked Fairmont's offense pounded out 15 hits - including four for extra bases - to flatten No. 12-ranked New Ulm, 12-1 in five innings, Tuesday in New Ulm.
The Cardinals secured the outright South Central Conference championship with a 9-1 league record via an early exit from Johnson Park. New Ulm, who claimed runner-up honors at 8-2, and Fairmont shared the SCC baseball crown in 2012.
FIELDING THE THROW — Fairmont third baseman Jay Ruen (10) maneuvers to field a one-hop throw from the outfield as New Ulm hitter Jackson Yackley slides safely into third base during South Central Conference baseball action Tuesday at Johnson Park in New Ulm. Yackley’s triple proved the Eagles’ only hit on the game as the Cardinals went on to win 12-1 in five innings to clinch the SCC championship outright. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)
The 2013 version of the Cardinals also etched their collective names in the record book by compiling the program's first-ever 18-1 record during the regular season.
"Everyone in the lineup contributed to today's victory," said Fairmont mentor Todd Sukalski, whose roster earned the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Section 3AA, South Sub-Section playoffs. "The top of the (batting) order got on base, the middle of the order knocked runners in and the lower part of the order contributed hits, sacrifice flies and sacrifice bunts.
"We did everything that it takes to beat a quality team like New Ulm."
Mitch Pfingsten literally defined the term cleanup hitter by clearing two teammates - Luke Becker and Levi Becker - with one turn of his wrists from the batter's box during the top of the first inning.
Pfingsten, who went 3-for-4 with a game-high four RBIs, hammered an offering from New Ulm ace Tanner Kluis into right field for a two-run double. The Becker brothers each reached via singles.
Holding a quick 2-0 lead, Holm hit catcher Ryan Noll's mitt with spot-on deliveries early and often, never working the count close to issuing a base-on-balls. In fact, the Cardinal ace hurler faced only one batter over the limit - 16 in five innings of work - to just miss pitching a rare perfect game.
"Bryce pitched another outstanding game against a very good ball club in New Ulm today, and he didn't throw many pitches to accomplish it," Sukalski said in reference to Holm's miniscule pitch count of 44 in five frames.
Jackson Yackley lined a triple to lead off the bottom of the third and later scored the Eagles' only run on Luke Cihak's sacrifice fly. After that juncture, Holm retired a string of eight straight batters to hold the potent New Ulm offense in check for five frames.
With Holm in shutdown mode on the mound, Fairmont erupted for two more runs in the second, five in fourth and three more in the fifth to win by the 10-run rule.
Jay Ruen and Kyle Guetter each singled in the Cardinals' second before moving into scoring position on Brandon Brooks' sacrifice bunt. Spencer Chirpich - who went 3-for-4 - lined an RBI single to center to plate Ruen before Guetter wheeled home when Luke Becker legged out an infield hit to short.
Brooks then drew a leadoff walk to open the Fairmont fourth before Chirpich and Luke Becker followed with singles to load the bases. Brooks crossed the plate on a wild pitch before Levi Becker drew a walk to refill the bases.
Pfingsten launched an offering from New Ulm reliever Wyatt Peterson into deep right field to plate Chirpich and Luke Becker to extend the Cardinals' lead to 7-1. Christian Petschke followed with an RBI single before Ruen lofted a sacrifice fly to widen the gap to 9-1.
Chirpich then set the table for Fairmont's early exit by lining a leadoff double into the right-field corner in the top of the fifth. Luke Becker, who went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, walked before both runners advanced 90 feet via a wild pitch.
Levi Becker, who went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, hammered a two-run double to deep left field to extend the red-and-white's edge to 11-1. Pfingsten singled, Noll walked and Petschke lofted a sacrifice fly to plate Levi Becker with an insurance run.
Holm worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, recording half of his four strikeouts on the game to seal his one-hit complete-game victory.
Kluis allowed four runs - all earned - on eight hits in three innings to take the loss for the Eagles. Kluis struck out two and did not issue a walk.
Fairmont (18-1, 9-1 SCC) plays host to No. 8-seeded Blue Earth Area at 11 a.m. Saturday at Herb Wolf Field in Fairmont in the opening round of the Section 3AA, South Sub-Section playoffs.
New Ulm (12-5, 8-2), the No. 2 seed in the Section 3AA, South Sub-Section tournament, plays host to No. 7-seeded Pipestone Area at 11 a.m. Saturday at Johnson Park in New Ulm in first-round playoff action.
FHS 220 53 - 12 15 0
NU 001 00 - 1 1 0
Bryce Holm (WP) and Ryan Noll. Tanner Kluis (LP), Wyatt Peterson (4), Tyler Dittrich (5) and Cole Dulas.
LOB-Fairmont 8, New Ulm 0. 2B-Mitch Pfingsten (F) 2, Spencer Chirpich (F), Levi Becker (F). 3B-Jackson Yackley (NU). SF-Christian Petschke (F), Jay Ruen (F), Luke Cihak (NU). SAC-Brandon Brooks (F).
Fairmont and New Ulm played to a 4-all tie in six innings of B-squad baseball action on Tuesday in Essig.
Cole Emler allowed four runs - three earned - on four hits, struck out five and walked four in six innings of work for the Cardinals.
Ben Abel went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI to top the Fairmont offense, while teammates Matt Lytle, Parker Monsen and Evan Kloss each added a hit.
Fairmont (8-3-1) plays host to Blue Earth Area in a doubleheader at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Iowa Prep Baseball
Fort Dodge St. Edmond 6, North Union 0 - Gaels pitchers Hank Crimmins, David Flattery and Jason Setterdahl combine to hurl seven innings of no-hit baseball to shut out the Warriors 6-0 during season-opening action on Monday night in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Crimmins pitched four shutout innings, walking four and striking out seven, before Flattery faced only one batter. Setterdahl then came in and pitched three scoreless innings. He walked three and struck out six during his relief appearance.
Tommy Setterdahl recorded the only hit of the game for the Gaels, smacking a two-run double en route to going 1-for-2 at the plate.
Sawyer Doocy and Garrett Johnson combined to pitch six innings of one-hit baseball to take the loss.
Doocy allowed four runs - none earned - walked three and struck out six in his 2 2/3 innings, before Johnson came in for the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on one hit, walking one and striking out five in relief.
North Union (0-1) plays host to Garner-Hayfield tonight in Bancroft, Iowa.
NU 000 000 0 - 0 0 6
SE 103 002 x - 6 1 2
Hank Crimmins (WP), David Flattery (5), Jason Setterdahl (5) and Brady Reiling. Sawyer Doocy, Garrett Johnson (3, LP) and Jake Adams.
LOB-North Union 8, FDSE 2. 2B-Tommy Setterdahl (FDSE).