Baseball: Pitcher, shortstop help Cardinals clip Gobblers
ST. CLOUD; Fairmont ace Spencer Chirpich and slugging shortstop Luke Becker gave Aitkin more than it could handle as the Cardinals shut out the Gobblers 7-0 in the Class 2A state quarterfinals Thursday night at Dick Putz Field.
The Gobblers were able to put bat on ball but usually hit it right at someone. A late comeback effort came up short as Aitkin left five runners on base in the final two innings.
"That game could just as easily have been 0-0 in the seventh," Aitkin coach Jeremy Janzen said. "We were just a couple pitches short of getting them out in a few innings. They're a good team and we expect them to be in the final.
"We're very proud of what (this team) has done. We hope to play two games (Friday)."
Aitkin meets Hawley in the consolation semifinals at 12:30 p.m. Friday. The winner plays the Blake/Delano winner for the consolation title at 3 p.m.
"We played really good defense," Aitkin shortstop Nathan Ehnstrom said. "We put the bat on the ball, it was just at somebody all the time. We won't change anything for (Friday)."
The first three innings were a pitchers' duel between Chirpich and Aitkin's Jake Lynn.
Chirpich struck out nine, tying his season high, walked one and gave up four hits. He retired 15 of the first 16 Gobblers as he relied on solid defense.
Lynn went 5.1 innings, gave up seven earned runs and five hits, struck out two, walked two and hit four batters. Nic Bordwell pitched the last two-thirds of an inning with one walk.
No. 2-seeded and third-ranked Fairmont got on the board in the bottom of the third, with one out as Becker hit a 2-run single.
In the fifth, Becker belted a 380-foot RBI triple off the fence in straightaway center. Becker scored on Jay Ruen's sacrifice fly for a 4-0 Fairmont lead.
The Cardinals picked up three more runs in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Jack Waletich, Chirpich delivered an RBI double and Ruen added another sacrifice fly.
Unseeded Aitkin's best chance to score was in the top of the sixth when it loaded the bases with one out. Jacob Hyytinen walked, Nathan Ehnstrom singled and Logan Quade singled to load the bases. Chirpich then struck out Lynn and got Dan Bender to ground out.
In the Aitkin seventh, the Gobblers threatened again. Drew Nordean's single preceded a fly out. Wyatt Sanford then reached first on an error before Chirpich retired the next two batters to end the game.
Baker and Chirpich accounted for four of Fairmont's five hits. Becker tripled and drove in three runs. Chirpich doubled and had one RBI.
Becker, who came into the game hitting .542, has nine doubles, nine triples and nine home runs among his 47 hits this season. In the Aitkin fourth, he robbed Quade of a hit when he went deep in the hole at short to snare Quade's grounder and threw him out at first.
Aitkin 000 000 0 — 0 4 2
Fairmont 002 023 x — 7 5 1
WP: Spencer Chirpich (6-0). LP: Jake Lynn (4-2). 2B: F-Chirpich. 3B: F-Luke Becker.
The key: The Cardinals' Spencer Chirpich pitched a 4-hitter.
Overall: A 22-5, F 24-1
Next: Aitkin vs. Hawley in Class 2A state consolation semifinals, Faber Field, St. Cloud, 12:30 p.m. Friday; Aitkin/Hawley winner vs. Blake/Delano winner in consolation championship game, Faber Field, 3 p.m. Friday.