MARSHALL - Fairmont earned its fourth consecutive appearance in the Section 3AA baseball championship by manufacturing runs and relying on solid pitching on Tuesday night.
Junior right-hander Luke Becker tossed a seven-hit complete game, while the normally-lethal Cardinal lumber scratched out all of its runs on just one hit during the third inning to cage the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta Tigers, 5-3, in an elimination game at American Legion Field in Marshall.
Class AA, No. 4-ranked Fairmont (22-2) earned a rematch with Luverne (18-4) in the double-elimination tournament's finale at 5 p.m. Thursday in Windom. If Fairmont defeats Luverne in Game 1, a second game to determine the state qualifier will follow 30 minutes after the end of the initial contest.
FORCED?OUT — Fairmont shortstop Spencer Chirpich gloves a throw from the outfield to record a forceout on Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta runner Lincoln Berget at second base during a Section 3AA elimination baseball game on Tuesday night at American Legion Field in Marshall. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta ended its season with a 17-4 record.
"It wasn't pretty, but we survived and are moving on," Fairmont mentor Todd Sukalski said in reference to his lineup's three-hit performance.
The Cardinals entered Tuesday's game with a hard-hitting .345 team batting average, but its talent-laden pitching rotation's miniscule 1.60 ERA proved a more potent factor behind the two-run victory.
"We were fortunate to beat a good baseball team like Morris Area (Chokio-Alberta) tonight," said Sukalski. "We didn't hit the ball like we're capable of, but we took advantage of what they gave us in the third inning, and that was key."
Tiger starting pitcher Mac Beyer plunked Sean Klein to open the bottom of the third inning before nicking Spencer Chirpich with an inside offering. Beyer then walked Luke Becker to load the bases before Levi Becker drilled a one-hopper off of the Tiger third baseman's glove that allowed Klein and Chirpich to score.
Beyer issued a walk to Mitch Pfingsten to load the bases again before exiting the mound in favor of shortstop Jacob Torgerson.
Torgerson issued an RBI base-on-balls to Ryan Noll before notching a strikeout.
Jay Ruen, who collected two of Fairmont's three hits on the game, blooped a single over the Tiger first baseman's head to plate Levi Becker for a 4-0 lead. Courtesy runner Jordan Voss later crossed the plate on Bryce Holm's RBI fielder's choice for a five-run edge.
Luke Becker then received outstanding defensive support to eventually strand 11 Tiger runners on the postseason clash.
"I thought Luke did a nice job of pitching out of a couple of jams tonight," said Sukalski.
The Tigers chipped away at the Cardinals' lead via solo runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh, but Becker refused to yield a big inning.
Back-to-back leadoff walks to Beyer and Tom Holland in the fourth, followed by Bryce Jergenson's single and Lincoln Berget's RBI fielder's choice narrowed MACA's deficit to 5-1.
Tanner Picht then walked to open the Tigers' fifth before circling the bases when Chandler Erickson drilled a towering RBI double into the left-field corner.
Fairmont centerfielder Bryce Holm then made a nice running catch before third baseman Jay Ruen gloved a foul popup near the dugout wall to thwart the Tigers' threat.
Becker then worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning and one run across.
Erickson singled, wheeled to third on Tyler Henrichs' second double of the game before tagging and scoring on Beyer's sacrifice fly to center.
Despite a two-out walk to Torgerson and Jergenson's ensuing single, Becker coaxed a game-sealing comebacker off of Berget's bat.
Luke Becker allowed three earned runs on seven hits, struck out four and walked six in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory. Becker improved to 3-0 on the season.
Beyer gave up five runs - four earned - on only one hit in two-plus innings to take the loss. The MACA right-hander issued five walks, hit two batters and fanned one.
Torgerson allowed only two hits in four shutout innings of relief for the Tigers. The senior right-hander fanned three, walked two and hit one batter.
Levi Becker supplied the Cardinals' other hit via a first-inning single.
Erickson, Henrichs and Jergenson each delivered two hits for the Tigers.
MACA 000 110 1 - 3 7 2
FHS 005 000 x - 5 3 1
Mac Beyer (LP), Jacob Torgerson (3) and Chandler Erickson. Luke Becker (WP, 3-0) and Mitch Pfingsten.
LOB-Fairmont 8, MACA 11. 2B-Tyler Henrichs (MACA) 2, Erickson (MACA). SF-Beyer (MACA). SAC-Torgerson (MACA).