FAIRMONT - The Fairmont American Legion Post 36 baseball team halved its last regular-season split doubleheader on Monday night at Herb Wolf Field.
Starting pitcher Matt Lytle combined with reliever Nate Johnson and closer Luke Becker to hurl a five-hit gem as Fairmont edged Mankato American, 2-0, in a diamond masterpiece that lasted a mere 75 minutes.
Unfortunately for Post 36, Game 2 of the split twinbill proved a reversal of fortune as New Ulm Gold pounded out 15 hits to coast to a 13-0, five-inning triumph.
PIVOTAL THROW — Fairmont American Legion Post 36 second baseman Matt Lytle forces out New Ulm Gold runner Collin Helget at second base before making the pivot throw to first base during regular-season baseball action Monday night at Herb Wolf Field in Fairmont. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
"I thought Matt (Lytle) did a nice job of throwing strikes, getting ahead in the count and getting our defense in and out of the dugout quickly in our first game tonight," said Fairmont mentor Scott Chirpich. "In Game 2, we just didn't hit the ball against New Ulm."
Ironically, Fairmont (6-5) opens the Division I, Sub-State 2 Tournament against Mankato American (7-9) at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Sleepy Eye.
"It would have been nice just to have tonight's game count as part of the playoffs, and save us both a trip to Sleepy Eye later this week," Chirpich said jokingly.
After Fairmont third baseman Tyler Tennyson triggered a 5-4-3 double play to erase Mankato American's second-inning leadoff single to keep the game scoreless, Post 36 combined three hits during the home half to stake Lytle to a 1-0 lead.
Tennyson and Ryan Noll drilled back-to-back singles before Mankato starting pitcher Nick Brink notched a strikeout and got a flyout to nearly escape unscathed.
Nate Johnson, however, had other ideas as he lined an RBI single to center to plate Tennyson for the early edge on the scoreboard.
Lytle then coasted through two more shutout innings on the mound before Post 36 literally swiped a run during the home half of the fourth.
Noll smacked a one-out single to left, stole second base and later wheeled to third on Nathan Gillis' infield hit up the middle.
One out later, Gillis broke for second base, stopped midway to draw a throw, and Noll outraced the return peg to the plate for a 2-0 lead.
Johnson allowed two hits in two scoreless innings of relief before Becker slammed the door shut on Mankato by facing only three batters in the seventh to earn the save.
Lytle struck out five and displayed stellar control by not issuing a walk in five shutout frames of three-hit baseball to earn the Game 1 victory.
Leadoff batter Judd Davis literally put the New Ulm Gold offensive attack in motion during the nightcap, reaching base four times via three doubles and a walk to ignite a 10-run rule victory over Fairmont.
Davis drilled a leadoff double in the top of the first inning before later scoring on Collin Helget's RBI groundout.
New Ulm then combined Chase Meyer's single, Wyatt Peterson's sacrifice fly, Brach Kraus' pivotal RBI triple with two out and two Fairmont errors into three second-inning runs.
Davis, who also scored three runs, drilled a double for one of his three RBIs on the game during a four-run fourth. Grant Kannegiesser contributed an RBI single to the outburst, while Meyer lofted a sacrifice fly.
Consecutive singles by Peterson, Nate Palmer and Kraus set up Davis' two-run double into the right-field corner before Nick Dewanz lined an RBI single. Meyer later singled before Peterson drilled his third hit of the game - an RBI single - to cap Gold's five-run, seven-hit fifth.
Luke Becker went 2-for-2 to top Fairmont's three-hit effort, Noll added a scorched infield hit literally off of New Ulm reliever Tyler Dittrich, and Parker Monsen drew a pair of walks.
Davis and Peterson each went 3-for-3 for New Ulm, while Meyer and Kraus each went 2-for-3.
Palmer allowed one hit in three shutout innings to net the victory for Gold. The right-hander struck out four and walked two.
Fairmont starting pitcher Jay Ruen allowed eight runs - only four earned - on eight hits, struck out one and walked three in four innings to take the Game 2 loss.
New Ulm Gold (21-7) opens sub-state tournament action against the winner between Woodbury and Worthington at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Sleepy Eye.
Kato 000 000 0 - 0 5 0
Fmt 010 100 x - 2 7 0
Nick Brink (LP) and Taylor Barnes. Matt Lytle (WP), Nate Johnson (5), Luke Becker (7, Sv) and Ben Abel.
LOB-Fairmont 5; Mankato American 4. 2B-Jack Waletich (F).
NU Gold 130 45 - 13 15 0
Fairmont 000 00 - 0 3 5
Nate Palmer (WP), Tyler Dittrich (4), Nick Dewanz (4) and Grant Kannegiesser. Jay Ruen (LP), Nate Johnson (5), Ryan Noll (5) and Ben Abel, Luke Becker (5).
LOB-Fairmont 5; New Ulm Gold 7. 2B-Judd Davis (NU) 3. 3B-Brach Kraus (NU). SF-Chase Meyer (NU), Wyatt Peterson (NU).