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Fairmont ends Wilmont's season with Game 5 win

Photo Courtesy of Chip Pearson/Fairmont Sentinel Wilmont first baseman Joe Ahrens forces out a Fairmont runner during Thursday night's amateur baseball playoff game in Fairmont.

FAIRMONT -- Aaron Siefken struck out 10 batters in nine solid innings and Jon Wilson belted a bases-clearing, three-run triple Thursday night, helping the Fairmont Martins claim a 6-1 victory over the Wilmont Cardinals in Game 5 of their Region 13C best-of-five amateur baseball playoff series at Herb Wolf Park.

Fairmont wins the series 3-2, earning three straight victories after losing the first two contests of the five-game set. The Martins (32-6) earn a bid to the Minnesota State Amateur Class C Tournament and will host the Region 13C championship game Saturday night (7:30 p.m.) against either Jackson or Pipestone.

"This was a very good series that saw the pitchers dominate most of the action," Fairmont player/manager Adam Schmidt said after the game. "Aaron had everything working tonight and pitched a great game for us. We have a lot of good pitchers on our team, so we were still confident about our chances even after we lost the first two ballgames."

Wilmont, which won the Gopher League regular-season title and finished second in the league tournament, ends the summer with a record of 23-10.

"We had another good, fun season with a lot of positive highlights," summed up Wilmont player/manager Justin Saufley, who pitched 7 1/3 innings and took the loss. "Give Fairmont all the credit, as they outplayed us in the final three games of this series. They are the best team, top-to-bottom, in the region and have a good chance to win some games at the state tournament."

Chirpich, Wilson and Siefken lead Martins

With Saufley and Siefken on the mound, Game 5 figured to be a low-scoring affair.

And it was during the opening five innings, as Fairmont -- which scored on singles by Scott Chirpich (run) and Shaun McGuire (RBI) in the bottom of the first -- held a 1-0 lead throughout the first half of the game.

The Martins, though, broke things open with a five-hit, four-run output in the sixth inning -- mounting a 5-0 advantage. Chirpich (2-for-4), Fairmont's lead-off man, got the rally going with another single to start the frame.

Jon Ellis, who had advanced Chirpich to second base with a sacrifice bunt in the first, followed with a double into the left-center field gap. McGuire was then issued an intentional walk, loading the bases with no outs.

Wilson (3-for-4) jumped on the first pitch he saw and lifted a deep fly ball into right-center field. Wilmont's outfielders appeared to lose the ball in the night sky, and all three base runners scored as Wilson hustled to third with a key triple.

Schmidt followed with an RBI single to left-center, plating Wilson for a 5-0 Martins' lead.

"Saufley is a great pitcher, but we got to him a little bit in that sixth inning," Schmidt said. "We hit the ball well, and with the way Aaron was pitching, a five-run lead was pretty comfortable at that point."

Ian Bents also singled in the sixth, but Saufley was able to get out of the inning with an infield pop-up, a strikeout and a ground ball.

Saufley worked a 1-2-3 frame in the seventh, his third of the game (second and third innings, as well). He also faced just four batters apiece in the fourth and fifth, pitching around singles by Wilson and Siefken.

Wilson, the Martins' designated hitter, cracked a lead-off double in the eighth, and right-fielder Taylor Morris (running for Wilson) scored on a one-out, RBI single off the bat of pinch-hitter Max Waletich, giving Fairmont a 6-1 lead and ending Saufley's night on the mound.

"I just didn't have my best stuff tonight," admitted Saufley, who struck out four batters, issued only the intentional walk and was tagged for six earned runs on 11 hits. "Fairmont is a very good hitting team, and they hit some balls hard in the right spots. Again, give them lots of credit."

Joe Ahrens came on to pitch and retired the only two batters he faced, giving Wilmont one last chance to make things happen offensively.

But Siefken (four walks, four hits and an unearned run allowed) set the Cardinals down in order for the fourth time, sealing Fairmont's victory with two strikeouts and a fly ball to center field.

"Siefken pitched well and kept us off balance," explained Saufley about the hard-throwing left-hander. "We had a few chances to score more runs, but we just couldn't come up with any key hits when we needed them."

Siefken wiggled out of jams in both of the first two innings before settling in. Wilmont's Jay Scheidt led off the game with a sharp single off the third baseman's glove and then stole second base.

But a strikeout and a pair of nice plays by Chirpich at shortstop left Scheidt stranded at third.

The Cardinals' Adam Diekmann drew a lead-off walk in the second, and Lucas Henning (2-for-4) followed with an opposite-field single into left-center. Stuart Rogers then put down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners.

Siefken, though, retired the next two batters on K and F-3 scoring plays to escape trouble once again.

Another strikeout and a 1-6-3 double play (after Nate Stoll reached on a one-out error) ensued in the third, starting a stretch in which Siefken retired 12 consecutive batters.

Siefken worked perfect frames in the fourth, fifth and sixth -- fanning a batter in each of those innings -- and then set the first two batters down in the seventh.

Back-to-back singles by Henning and Ahrens snapped the streak and gave Wilmont runners on the corners, but Siefken notched his seventh strikeout of the night to end the threat.

Scheidt reached on a one-out error in the eighth and scored Wilmont's only run after Siefken walked three of the next four batters, trimming the gap to 5-1. Stoll, Saufley and Diekmann (RBI) were each issued a free pass, as the Cardinals got on the board and had a chance to get back in the game.

But Siefken, who fanned a batter in-between the first and second base on balls of the frame, induced an inning-ending groundout to Chirpich to leave the bases loaded.

Fairmont answered with a run in the bottom half and then closed out the series-clinching win in the ninth, returning to the state tournament for the first time since 2008.

"Last year, we were up 2-0 on Luverne and lost the next three games," Schmidt said. "If feels good to be on the other end of it this year. Wilmont is a good team and gave us a real challenge, so hats off to them for a fun and exciting playoff series."


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