FAIRMONT - Fairmont left fielder Abby Fitzgerald belted a two-run inside-the-park home run to help the Cardinals down the St. James Saints 5-0 during South Central Conference softball action on Monday at Cardinal Park in Fairmont.
"We didn't string many hits together in an inning today, but we got some really big ones when we needed them," said Fairmont head coach Terry Ehlert.
The No. 5-seeded Fairmont Cardinals (11-9, 6-4 SCC) play No. 4-seeded Luverne in Section 3AA, South Sub-Section playoff action at 4 p.m. today in Pipestone.
INSIDE-THE-PARK HOMER — Fairmont’s Abby Fitzgerald sprints by St. James catcher Lindzey Hanson to score on her two-run, inside-the-park homer during South Central Conference softball action Monday at Cardinal Park in Fairmont. The Cardinals’ Micaela Gochanour (back) watches the play. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
The winner of the game will advance to face No. 1-seeded Pipestone Area in a 5:30 p.m. game today in Pipestone.
The No. 7-seeded Saints (4-13, 2-7 SCC) travel to play two-time defending Class AA state champion and No. 2-seeded New Ulm at 3 p.m. today at Harman Field in New Ulm.
After the Cardinals led off with a grounder and a strikeout for two outs in the second inning, the rally was stalling when senior right fielder Kayla Lardy smacked a pitch to right-center for a double.
Lardy then raced to third on a wild pitch, before Courtney Guetter walked to put runners on the corners.
Guetter then swiped second on the first-pitch delivered to Fitzgerald, and on the errant throw from the Saints' catcher, Lardy raced home to make it a 1-0 game.
Guetter also wheeled to third on the throwing error, before Fitzgerald hit a blast to the centerfield fence.
Guetter jogged home to make it a 2-0 game, while Fitzgerald motored around the bases for the in-the-park round-tripper.
The Cardinals then tacked onto their lead, scoring two runs in the sixth.
"I think that the key for us offensively is that we were being patient," said Ehlert. "We weren't always swinging at great pitches, but we were staying in the game and in the at-bats looking for pitches to do something with."
Fitzgerald, who went 2-for-2 from the plate, led off the rally this time around with a five-pitch walk, before Micaela Gochanour also drew a free pass with a walk to put runners on first and second.
Kristen Campe then smacked a double to left, scoring Fitzgerald from second and moving Gochanour, who also went 2-for-2 from the plate, to third.
Allison Moeller then delivered an RBI fielder's choice, grounding out to the second baseman, allowing Gochanour to race home for the 5-0 lead.
With stellar pitching from Mikayla Krzywicki, who allowed just three hits and struck out three in seven innings, the Cardinals were able to shut out the Saints.
"Defensively, I thought that we really played solid," said Ehlert. "We stayed within our game and didn't make many errors. We kept them from really having a chance."
The Saints threatened to start the game in the top of the first, recording a pair of singles, but the Cardinals managed to put an end to the threat.
Emily Bottem ripped a single up the middle to lead off the game, but in an attempt to steal second was throw out by Cardinal catcher Tieryn Arens.
Acacia Foss then smacked a single down the left field line, but Krzywicki got the next to Saints to fly out to get out of the inning unscathed.
Julia Beckius pitched seven innings for the Saints, giving up five runs on nine hits and striking out four to absorb the loss.
St. James 000 000 0 - 0 3 1
Fairmont 030 002 x - 5 9 1
Julia Beckius (LP) and Lindzey Hanson. Mikayla Krzywicki and Tieryn Arens.
2B-Kristen Campe (F) and Kayla Lardy (F). HR-Abby Fitzgerald (F). SAC-Janelle Larson (SJ).