NCAA BASEBALL: Cardinals defeat Tigers 2-1 in pitcher’s duel

By Charlie Sorrells

Fairmont Sentinel Sports Editor

FAIRMONT – Fairmont right-hander Spencer Chirpich fired a one-hit shutout through six completed innings during Friday’s clash of Section 3AA baseball titans in Fairmont.

Marshall right-hander Connor Winkelman had a no-hitter intact through five completed frames at Herb Wolf Field.

Cleanup batter Jay Ruen and No. 6 hitter Nathan Gillis delivered clutch RBI singles in the bottom of the sixth to spoil Winkelman’s no-hit bid before Bryce Johnson’s leadoff double and Drew Hmielewski’s RBI single ended Chirpich’s shutout bid during the top of the seventh.

Chirpich then foiled the Class AA, No. 7-ranked Tigers’ sacrifice bunt attempt by nailing the lead runner with no outs in the seventh before coaxing a game-ending double play to seal the No. 5-ranked Cardinals’ hard-fought 2-1 non-league victory.

“He (Chirpich) is one of the better pitchers in the area,” Marshall head coach Chace Pollock said. “It’s good for our guys to get work against this kind of pitching for the section tournament coming up. We stuggled with his speed at the plate, but we’re getting better. The guys are competing.”

Fairmont head coach Todd Sukalski was excited about the recent success of his team.

“We had a good seven-day stretch,” Sukalski said in reference to his Cardinals’ 1-0 victory over then No. 4-ranked Luverne last Friday and a 14-3 win over then No. 6 New Ulm on Monday at Johnson Park. “Chirp and Winkelman locked up in quite a pitchers’ duel today.”

Ironically, Chirpich, a hard-throwing junior right-hander, surrendered a leadoff single to his counterpart on the mound – Connor Winkelman – to open the sectional showdown in the top of the first.

Chirpich then retired an incredible 18 of the next 19 Tiger batters he faced before Bryce Johnson connected on a leadoff double in the seventh. Johnson then sliced the Cardinals’ lead in half by scoring on Hmielewski’s RBI single to center.

Noah Winkelman then dropped down a bunt near the hill and Chirpich quickly pounced on it and fired a bullet to second base to earn the forceout. Riley Sharbono then grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

“(First baseman) Tyler Tennyson did a nice job of stretching to field the low throw while still being able to stay on the base to end the game,” said Sukalski. “Overall, our defense as a whole has been very good.”

Across the diamond, Connor Winkelman handcuffed the Cardinals’ potent bats through five frames, with only Tennyson reaching base twice via errors and issuing his only walk of the game to Parker Monsen.

Winkelman, however, grazed Jack Waletich with a one-out delivery in the bottom of the sixth before Luke Becker drilled a one-hop liner off the Tiger third baseman’s glove to put Cardinals at first and second.

Ruen hammered an RBI single to center to plate Waletich for a 1-0 lead, but Becker was caught in a rundown for the second out on the play. Tennyson reached for the third time via an error before Gillis smacked an RBI single up the middle to score Ruen for a 2-0 lead.

“Jay and Nathan really came through with a couple of big hits for us during the sixth. Gilly’s RBI single gave us an insurance run that we would need to win,” said Sukalski.

Chirpich recorded nine strikeouts, issued only one walk and gave up one run on three hits in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory for the Cardinals.

Connor Winkelman allowed two runs – one earned – on three hits, struck out eight, walked one and hit one batter in six innings to absorb the loss for the Tigers.

Fairmont (12-1, 4-1 South Central) travels to Worthington on Monday, while Marshall (12-4) hosts Worthington at 4 p.m. Tuesday at American Legion Field.

Fairmont 2, Marshall 1

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Fairmont0000020-230

HITTING: Marshall (Hmielewski 1-for-3, RBI; Johnson 1-for-3, run; C. Winkleman 1-for-3); Fairmont (Ruen 1-for-3, RBI, run; Gillis, 1-for-3, RBI; Waletich 0-for-2, run).

PITCHING (IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO): Marshall (C. Winkleman 6-3-2-0-1-8); Fairmont (Chirpich 7-3-1-1-1-9).

RECORDS: Marshall (12-4); Fairmont (12-1).

NEXT GAME: Marshall (vs. Worthington); Fairmont (at Worthington).