FAIRMONT - The Region 13C playoffs' No. 1-seeded Fairmont Martins continue to use the same formula to pile up victories - predominant pitching, line-drive hitting and flawless defense.
Ace right-hander Shaun McGuire fired a five-hit complete-game gem, while teammates Jon Ellis and Luke Becker combined for five RBIs behind two hits each to engineer the Martins' 9-2 victory over the No. 4-seeded Hadley Buttermakers during Game 1 of their best-of-3 regional semifinal series Wednesday night at Herb Wolf Field.
Game 2 shifts to Hadley, with the Martins (22-3) and host Buttermakers (20-13) squaring off at 2 p.m. Saturday. If a Game 3 is necessary, it would take place at 2 p.m. Sunday in Fairmont. The winner of the series automatically qualifies for the Class 'C' state amateur baseball tournament.
STRETCH?PLAY — Fairmont Martins pitcher Shaun McGuire (24) attempts to stretch to catch shortstop Scott Chirpich’s (back right) return throw to first base and keep his foot on the bag during Region 13C semifinal amateur baseball playoff action Wednesday night at Herb Wolf Field in Fairmont. Martins first baseman Logan Peymann (left) originally threw to Chirpich for the forceout of Hadley runner Blake Jouwstra (back left) at second base. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Ironically, the Martins - the 2012 state runner-up - trailed by a quick 2-0 margin on the heels of Hadley No. 3 batter Nick Bruning's two-run home run with one out in the top of the first inning. Joe Larson, who blooped a leadoff single, scored on Bruning's towering blast over the left-field fence.
"I hung him (Bruning) a curveball and he hit it out," said McGuire.
McGuire learned his lesson early, and proved nearly unhittable for the ensuing eight innings, allowing only Nate Wieneke's double in the fifth, Max Zwart's two-bagger in the sixth and Larson's single in the seventh.
In fact, the hard-throwing McGuire got stronger as the playoff game progressed, recording 10 strikeouts en route to closing out the game by retiring eight in a row.
Fairmont halved its deficit by combining three singles to produce a solo run during the home half of the first inning.
Scott Chirpich, who went 2-for-5, lined a one-out single to center before McGuire assisted his own cause by driving an outside offering from Hadley right-hander Zach Bruns into right for a single. Adam Schmidt was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Luke Becker singled to left to plate Chirpich to slice the Martins' gap to 2-1.
"We knew it was a matter of time before we finally scored some runs because we were getting a lot of hits during the early innings," Fairmont player-coach Adam Schmidt said in reference to his batting order's seven-hit performance through the initial three frames.
Trailing 2-1, Ian Bents' hustle play on a two-out error served as the Martins' offensive catalyst during the bottom of the sixth inning.
After Bents reached on one of the Buttermakers' six miscues, Dustin Sobolik hammered a double into the right-center gap. Logan Peymann was plunked by a Bruns offering to load the bases before Ellis quickly unloaded them. Ellis singled to right to plate Bents and Sobolik before Peymann scored on a throwing error.
With McGuire posting zeroes on Hadley's side of the scoreboard, Fairmont erupted for five runs in the eighth to put the game away.
Bents reached on another error before circling the bases on Sobolik's RBI triple to deep center. Sobolik then scored when Tanner Nawrocki's grounder was mishandled for a 6-2 lead.
Ellis reached on a fielder's choice before eventually scoring on Chirpich's RBI single up the middle. Schmidt later walked before both he and Chirpich crossed the plate on Luke Becker's towering two-run triple to deep center.
Ellis, Chirpich, Luke Becker and Sobolik each supplied two hits for the Martins, with Luke Becker collecting three RBIs and Ellis two.
HAD 200 000 000 - 2 5 6
FMT 100 003 05x - 9 12 0
Zach Bruns (LP), Nick Bruning (8) and Trent Carlson. Shaun McGuire (WP) and Dustin Sobolik.
LOB-Fairmont 9, Hadley 7. 2B-Sobolik (F), Max Zwart (H), Nate Wieneke (H). 3B-Luke Becker (F), Sobolik (F). HR-Bruning (H).