AMATEUR BASEBALL: Martins win pitcher's duel against Cards
WILMONT -- An amazing total of 27 strikeouts were recorded Tuesday night in an old-fashioned pitcher's duel at Butts Probst Field.
Locking horns on the mound were Wilmont's Brian Beuning -- a draftee from the Luverne Redbirds -- and Fairmont's ace Taylor Nawrocki.
There were only five hits in the game, but three of them came in the pivotal top of the fourth inning when the visiting Martins plated a pair of runs and held on -- behind Nawrocki's powerful right arm and a stellar defensive play by third baseman Shaun McGuire -- to claim a 2-0 victory over the host Cardinals in Game 4 of the Region 13C amateur baseball playoffs.
Fairmont's win -- the second in a row for the First Nite League champions -- evens the series at two games each and sets up a deciding Game 5 at Herb Wolf Park in Fairmont Thursday with the first pitch scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
"This has been a great series and now it comes down to just one game," summed up Wilmont player-manager Justin Saufley, who came up with a pair of defensive gems for the Cardinals at second base. "Brian pitched a tremendous game for us and so did Nawrocki for them."
Beuning, who tossed a complete-game victory for Wilmont in Game 1 (a 3-2 Cardinal win at Fairmont Aug. 3), was remarkable on the hill Tuesday, hurling eight scoreless innings, while recording 14 strikeouts and giving up just two walks.
Fairmont (31-6) did tag Beuning for four hits, including a pair of doubles by McGuire, a double by Jon Wilson and a key two-run single by player-manager Adam Schmidt.
McGuire's second double, Wilson's extra-base blast and Schmidt's timely RBIs all came on consecutive at-bats in the top of the fourth inning -- and were opposite-field hits driven into right field.
"I was looking to go the other way, as it is hard to pull the ball on (Beuning)," explained Schmidt about his two-run single which produced the game's only runs. "I was lucky enough to be able to stay back on that one and drive the ball to an open spot."
McGuire, who had smacked a two-out double in the top of the first inning, ripped a one-out shot down the first-base line to ignite the Martins in teh fourth.
Wilson followed with a double -- which was nearly caught -- forcing McGuire to hold up and only reach third on the play.
Schmidt's single scored both McGuire and Wilson, while Schmidt advanced to second on a Wilmont error.
Beuning, who had struckout six consecutive Martins (one in the first, three in the second and two in the third) earlier in the game, notched his seventh and eighth K's, stranding Fairmont runners on second and third to end the inning.
"Those two runs ended up being the difference," concluded Saufley. "We had several chances ourselves, but were not able to come with a key hit when we needed to -- or Fairmont made a fantastic defensive play when they needed to."
Beuning pitched no-hit, no-run baseball over the final five innings -- striking out six more batters, while giving up just a single walk.
Beuning worked back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in both the fifth and sixth frames, recording four strikeouts and getting a long catch in center field by Nate Stoll for the second out in the fifth and a sensational diving stop by Saufley -- moving to his right -- at second to end the sixth.
"I like playing in the infield and that was a fun play to make," exclaimed Saufley. "It was a great baseball game and we look forward to playing another close game Thursday."
Schmidt anticipated as much.
"We expected a low-scoring game between two outstanding pitchers and that's what happened here," he summed up. "Taylor has done a remarkable job for us all season and he certainly came through again.
"Wilmont's pitcher was tough to hit. He kept us off balance with a good, hard slider and struck us out time after time."
Nawrocki strikes out 13, in one-hit shutout
After giving up a leadoff single to Jay Scheidt in the bottom of the first inning and a one-out walk to Steven Kremer, Nawrocki was impressive with his fastball and did not surrender another hit.
Meanwhile, Nawrocki struck out 13 Cardinals -- several in clutch situations -- to preserve his shutout.
Wilmont did coax five walks in the game and the Cardinals loaded the bases in both the bottom of the sixth and eighth innings.
But each time, Nawrocki and the Martins' defense was able to keep Wilmont from scoring.
In the sixth, Kremer and Saufley both reached base on back-to-back Fairmont errors and Adam Diekmann worked the count to 3-2 before drawing a walk to load the bases.
Nawrocki, however, notched his eighth strikeout to end the threat.
After striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh, Nawrocki opened the eighth with back-to-back disasters -- beaning the first two batters (Scheidt and Stoll) on just two pitches.
After getting his 12th strikeout, Nawrocki ended up walked Saufley to load the bases.
With one out and the sacks full, Diekmann ripped the first pitch he saw, pulling it down the third-base line in what looked like a possible extra-base, run-producing hit.
But McGuire leaped in the air, catching the line drive and quickly stepped on third base, doubling up Scheidt to end the frame -- without Wilmont scoring.
"Hitting the ball hard like that in that situation was all you could ask for," Saufley said of Diekmann's blast. "But, what a play by McGuire, if that ball is just a couple inches higher -- we probably score two runs for sure there."
In the bottom of the ninth, Nawrocki received another fine fielding play by McGuire at third base for the first out, registered his 13th strikeout for the second and then -- after issuing a two-out walk to Stuart Rogers -- induced a pop-up to the shortstop to end the game.
Wilmont (23-9) ended up stranding 10 men on base, leaving two on in the first, one in the third, one in the fifth, three in the sixth, two in the eighth and one in the ninth.
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