MARSHALL - Fairmont stormed to a 3-1 lead over Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta on Tuesday night before heavy rain and hail in Marshall suspended the Section 3AA baseball game in the bottom of the second inning.
Less than 24 hours later, the Cardinals thundered their way to six third-inning runs behind six hits to declaw the Tigers, 11-2, during third-round playoff action Wednesday at American Legion Field.
Class AA No. 3-ranked Fairmont (21-1) earned a two-day respite before returning to Marshall on Saturday for a noon showdown with No. 8-ranked and defending section champion Luverne (18-4). Luverne edged No. 10-rated Marshall, 4-3, during Tuesday's first game at American Legion Field before thunderstorms moved into the area.
STIRRING IT UP — Fairmont runner Luke Becker stirs up the dust as he slides safely under Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta shortstop Bryce Jergeson’s tag with a stolen base during third-round Section 3AA baseball playoff action on Wednesday at American Legion Field in Marshall. Fairmont went on to defeat MACA, 11-2. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta (11-11) faces St. James in a 7 p.m. elimination game tonight back in Marshall.
"It's difficult on a pitcher's arm to throw a couple of innings, have the game suspended and then come back the next day," said Fairmont mentor Todd Sukalski, whose lineup extended its school-record winning streak to 21 in a row. "Clayton (Maakestad) replaced (starting pitcher) Luke (Becker) on the mound right away today and gave us five solid innings.
"He (Maakestad) really stepped up and shut them (the Tigers) down when we needed it."
Becker, who slugged his state-leading ninth home run in the bottom of the first inning on Tuesday night, allowed one unearned run on two hits during his two-inning stint on the hill.
Ironically, Maakestad surrendered another unearned run during the top of the third before slamming the brakes on the Tigers' potent batting lineup over the final four frames.
Maakestad gave up a one-out single to Riley Biesterfield in the fourth before retiring 11 consecutive MACA batters to seal his postseason victory in relief.
Becker, who moved to center field when junior Cole Emler injured his knee while trying to avoid a tag on his grounder in the bottom of the second, tracked down four fly balls, while shortstop Spencer Chirpich delivered four stellar stops and rifled throws to first to back Maakestad's pitching performance.
Ahead 3-2 on the strength of Becker's homer and Parker Monsen's two-run single on Tuesday night, Fairmont sent 11 to the batter's box against MACA reliever Danny Tracy during the home half of the third.
Becker legged out a leadoff infield hit to short, stole second base and scored on Jay Ruen's RBI single to center to trigger the Cardinals' offensive avalanche.
Tyler Tennyson hammered a double down the right-field line to move Ruen to third base before Nathan Gillis drilled a sinking two-run double to left to extend Fairmont's margin to 6-2.
Monsen bunted Gillis to third base before Ben Abel lined an RBI single down the left-field line to bring home Gillis. Eli Green then singled to left before a Tiger error in the outfield plated Abel for an 8-2 edge. Fairmont added another run via a wild pitch one out later.
Ruen lofted a sacrifice fly to plate Jack Waletich, who had walked, to account for the Cardinals' solo run in the fifth before Gillis singled and pinch runner Nate Johnson circled the bases on wild pitches in the sixth.
Becker and Gillis each went 2-for-2, while every Fairmont teammate contributed a hit to the winning performance.
Ironically, MACA starting pitcher Noah Grove gave up three runs on two hits, walked two, struck out one and hit one batter in one inning of work on Tuesday to receive the loss.
Bryce Jergenson, Corey Storck, Gage Backman and Biesterfield each singled for the Tigers.
MACA 101 000 0 - 2 4 2
FMT 306 011 x - 11 11 2
Noah Grove (LP), Danny Tracy (2), Sean Amundson (3) and Corey Storck. Luke Becker, Clayton Maakestad (3, WP) and Ben Abel.
LOB-Fairmont 8; MACA 5. 2B-Tyler Tennyson (F), Nathan Gillis (F). HR-Becker (F). SF-Jay Ruen (F). SAC-Parker Monsen (F).