Foxes beat Cardinals, 6-4, look for series sweep
JACKSON -- Kane Malo slammed a two-run home run and hurled a gutsy complete game Friday night at Wacker Field, sparking the Fox Lake Foxes to a 6-4 victory over the Wilmont Cardinals in Game 2 of their Region 13C playoff series.
Fox Lake now leads the best-of-five series, 2-0. The Foxes can sweep the series when the teams meet at 2 p.m. Sunday in Wilmont
Malo's two-run blast was the highlight hit in the Foxes' four-run first inning. Robb Larson also had a two-run base hit in the first, as Fox Lake took advantage of two Wilmont errors to post a 4-0 lead.
The Foxes later scored two runs in the sixth, and Malo worked out of several jams to keep his team in front. He allowed four earned runs, 10 hits and three walks while fanning four Cardinals in earning the complete-game victory.
Wilmont's Ben Morrison also went the distance, allowing just two earned runs and eight hits. He didn't walk anyone and struck out eight batters.
Joel Erdman reached on an error to begin the bottom of the first, and after a flyout by Grant Madison, Malo crushed a 1-0 pitch over the fence in left to put Fox Lake up 2-0.
Grant Carlson then reached on an error and Kody Johnson -- a draftee from Windom -- singled to left before Miah Fitzgerald grounded out to third, moving the runners to second and third with two outs.
Larson then smacked the first pitch he saw into left-center for a single, scoring both runners to push Fox Lake's lead to 4-0.
Wilmont trimmed the lead to 4-1 in the second, as Cole Johnson (single), Jesse Teerink (single) and Nate Harberts (RBI double, scoring Johnson) laced three consecutive two-out hits. With a pair of runners in scoring position, Malo struck out Justin Saufley to end the threat.
The Cardinals then cut the lead in half with a single run in the fifth. Harberts led off with a single, moved to second on Saufley's perfect sacrifice bunt and was plated by Morrison's RBI single to left, making it 4-2.
Malo avoided further damage in the frame by fanning Troy Appel with two outs and the bases loaded.
Fox Lake answered with two runs in the sixth, as two more Cardinal errors and base hits by Fitzgerald, Jayden Grupe and Erdman helped increase the Foxes' advantage to 6-2.
Fitzgerald (2-for-3) started the inning with a solid single to left and moved to second on an errant pickoff attempt. Larson then laid down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to first went down the right-field line, allowing a run to score and Larson to go all the way to third.
Grupe (2-for-4) followed with a bunt single, and after Dustin Zellmer popped out, Erdman slashed a single to right-center, bringing home Larson to put Fox Lake up 6-2.
Wilmont came right back with a pair of runs in the seventh, as Appel and Johnson delivered back-to-back, two-out RBI singles to score Sam Baumgartner (walk) and Josh Noble (infield single) to make it 6-4. Malo then induced a groundout to end the inning.
The Cardinals again threatened in the eighth when Saufley drew a one-one walk and Baumgartner reached on fielder's choice. With two men on and one out, Malo got the next two hitters -- Morrison and Matt Paulsen (a draftee from Pipestone) -- to pop out and end the inning.
Down to their final three outs, the Cardinals received a leadoff double from Noble in the ninth. However, Malo retired the next three batters on a strikeout, lineout and groundout to end the game and put the Foxes up 2-0 in the series.
Harberts, Noble, Johnson and Morrison each had two hits for Wilmont.
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Wil. 010 010 200 -- 4 10 6
F. L. 400 002 00x -- 6 8 1