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State Class AA baseball: Luverne falls to St. Cloud Cathedral, 4-1

Luverne's Skyler Wenninger (left) tags out St. Cloud Cathedral's Thomas Imholte (right) on a steal attempt Thursday in St. Cloud while Jonny Solma stands ready.1 / 4
Luverne's Logan Meyer lays down a squeeze bunt in front of St. Cloud Cathedral catcher Thomas Imholte at the state Class AA baseball tournament. LHS' Matt Overgaard scored on the play to tie the game 1-1.2 / 4
The LHS Cardinals' Kendall Meyer gets caught in a rundown between SCC's Logan Schramel (10) and Andrew Lenzmeier (7). Meyer was tagged out on the play.3 / 4
Luverne coach Mike Wenninger (left) talks to starting pitcher Reed Skattum (15) and the rest of the infield after a pair of walks allowed St. Cloud Cathedral to score a run.4 / 4

ST. CLOUD -- Jeff Fasching threw a complete game one-hitter to lead the St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders to a 4-1 win over the Luverne Cardinals in the opening round of the Class AA state baseball tournament at Dick Putz Field Thursday.

"There really wasn't enough flow to the game at all," Wenninger said. "It was really stagnant, with the defense out there just waiting. If you add up all the walks and hit batters in the game, that is a lot of standing around for the defense. You don't get that flow, that continuity of ground balls or working the ball around on different plays. So, that was a struggle for us to get into the game."

Between the two teams there were a total of 12 walks, with the Cardinals giving up 10 free bases to the Crusaders.

"The walks we gave up today were the difference," Wenninger said. "When you come to the state tournament, you can't give up as many walks as we did today."

After hitting a batter to load the bases in the bottom of the first, Luverne starting pitcher Reed Skattum was able to force St. Cloud Cathedral's Bo Schmitz to ground into a fielder's choice to stop a run scoring at home. But a walk to Thomas Imholte in the next at bat gave the Crusaders a 1-0 lead. However, Skattum followed the run-scoring walk with a strikeout of SCC's Andrew Lenzmeier to stop the bleeding.

"We haven't walked this many guys all year," Wenninger said. "Those free bases really got us. A lot of coaches call those the 'freebies' and there is a 'battle of the freebie war' in every game. We lost that one today."

Fasching pitched a one-two-three second inning, getting two strikeouts to bring up the Crusaders offense for a second try at adding to their lead. But Skattum shut down SCC with a one-two-three inning of his own.

A leadoff walk to Matt Overgaard cost Fasching in the top of the third after Overgaard advanced to second on a ground ball and then stole third. Logan Norman then proceeded to lay down a perfectly executed squeeze bunt to score Overgaard from third and tie the game at one.

"We just wanted to keep pressure on their defense and I wanted us to stay in the game," Wenninger said. "I didn't want us to sit back and just wait for things to happen. They were holding a 1-0 lead and we wanted to even up the game. And we were able to do that."

The game wouldn't remain tied for long, as the Crusaders used three walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly by Jalen Braegelmann to score three runs in the bottom half of the inning, giving SCC a 4-1 lead.

"What is really frustrating is when you get that 1-to-1 tie on the board and our pitcher went out and walked the leadoff batter the very next inning," Wenninger said. "That is a cardinal rule of baseball, you want to keep the momentum on your side as long as you can. But when you give up a leadoff walk, all of a sudden the other team has all the momentum again."

After registering the final two outs of the third in relief of Skattum, Gunnar Olson faced just four batters in the fourth to keep the Cardinals within three.

"We decided we wanted to start with our left-hander, then go to a righty and put back in another left-hander when we needed to," Wenninger said. "We just wanted to keep a good-hitting team off balance."

Fasching continued his dominance in the top of the fifth, picking up another strikeout and forcing two Luverne batters to pop out on the way to another one-two-three inning.

"The strike zone today was a little more abnormal today than we are used to," Wenninger said. "But at the state tournament you have to be able to adjust to those things. We didn't adjust as well as they did. They made the adjustments much faster than we did, so hats off to them and that is why they are the No. 1 seed."

The Cardinals struggled with their baserunning in the top of the sixth when back-to-back runners were caught attempting to steal second to end the inning.

Zane Hiller replaced Olson in the bottom of the inning and faced just four batters while keeping the score at 4-1.

Fasching carried a no-hitter bid into the top of the seventh, but a line-drive double off the bat of Olson gave the Cardinals a runner in scoring position with two outs in the inning. However, Fasching forced Jonny Solma to ground out in Luverne's next at bat to finish the game.

"I'm not upset with our hitters after today's game," Wenninger said. "They put a lot of line drives in play today and we had a lot of deep hits to the outfield, too. But a lot of the balls were floaters and they just didn't want to come down."

With the loss, the Cardinals drop into the consolation bracket and will face No. 4 Hermantown at 10 a.m. on Joe Faber Field today, with the winner moving on to the consolation championship game at 3 p.m. today.

"We will come out with our best game in our next game against whoever we play," Wenninger said. "We had a little taste of disappointment today, so I'm hoping that everyone will come with a fresh attitude and be ready to play."


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