Cardinals too tough for Tigers

MARSHALL – Two big innings kept the Fairmont Cardinals rolling in their quest to repeat as Section 3AA baseball champions on Tuesday. Fairmont used two Marshall errors and three base hits to put up five runs in the third inning against the Tigers, before belting three doubles for four runs in the fourth inning. The two crooked numbers, along with seven solid innings from starting pitcher Bryce Holm, pushed the Cardinals past Marshall 9-5 and extended their winning streak to 14 games.

“We have to do a better job of minimizing the big inning,” Marshall head coach Chace Pollock said. “We gave up two of them today. We tried to do our best to put a band-aid on it. That five-run inning could have been even bigger if Colton (Peterson) doesn’t make a great play on the back-door double play and catch that guy off of third. That was a big play for us.”

Having already plated five runs in the third, Fairmont was poised to add to its total in the inning with one out and the bases loaded. Marshall starter Aaron Mathiowetz got Sean Klein to bounce a grounder to first base, which was thrown for a force at home. Catcher Colton Peterson made a heads up play and caught Fairmont’s Jay Ruen in a rundown between home and third for the final out of the inning.

Ruen was 2-for-4 for the Cardinals on the day with a pair of RBI singles.

The Tigers struck first in the game, as Mathiowetz knocked in Leo Zerr with two outs in the top of the first. Zerr, who missed the earliest parts of the season with an ankle injury, showed how far his recovery had come as he scored from first base on the hit. It was one of three runs that Zerr scored on the day, which he finished 3-for-4 with a double.

“Leo did a nice job today. We’re really proud of his effort,” Pollock said. “His ankle is getting better. It was a muscle issue, so he’s been rehabbing that muscle. I think it is almost behind him at this point.”

After plating five runs in the third, Fairmont tacked on four more in the fourth on four hits.

Luke Becker blasted a one-out double for the first of three doubles. Levi Becker then flew out to left field, bringing up No. 4 batter Mitch Pfingsten with two-outs and first base open. The Tigers opted to intentionally walk the clean-up batter, but the gamble back-fired.

Ryan Noll and Christian Petschke smashed back-to-back doubles to left field, chasing Mathiowetz in the process.

After throwing three perfect innings in Marshall’s playoff opener on Saturday, Mathiowetz was stung for nine runs (seven earned) on six hits with five walks. He also hit a batter and struck out three.

Fairmont’s last hit of the game was a two-out triple by Luke Becker in the fifth inning. Becker went 3-for-4 in the game with two doubles, a triple, two runs and two RBIs.

“They’re just a good hitting ball club,” Pollock said of No. 1 seed Fairmont. “They just made good contact today and really knocked the ball around the park.”

Marshall added a run in the fifth, as Zerr scored on a dropped fly ball. The Tigers scored two more unearned runs in the sixth on an overthrow by Fairmont’s catcher and a ground-ball between the legs of their shortstop.

Meanwhile, Conner Mesman scattered two hits and threw 2 1/3 shut out innings of relief for Marshall.

The Tigers had a final chance to even up the game in the seventh. Marshall loaded the bases with one out on singles by Mathiowetz and Zerr and a hit batter.

Following a strikeout, Austin Saugstad walked to bring in a run bringing the tying run to the plate. A hard grounder to third base, however, ended the Tigers’ night and a six-game winning streak.

After being one-hit by Holm in the teams’ previous meeting on May 11, Marshall scattered seven hits on Tuesday. The Tigers (11-8 overall) did commit three errors in the game, though the Cardinals made four as well.

Fairmont (21-1) moves on to face Luverne at noon on Saturday in Marshall in a match-up of the two remaining unbeaten teams in the Section 3AA tournament. Marshall, which has just one loss in the playoffs, will face Pipestone Area in an elimination game on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Legion Field.

“We’re playing baseball still, which is always a good thing,” Pollock said. “We’re going again on Thursday and we’re excited about it.”