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Amateur baseball: Fairmont edges Windom to sweep series

WINDOM -- Runs were at a premium on Friday at Island Park as Fairmont defeated Windom 2-1 in a pitcher's duel to sweep a Region 13C semifinal playoff series and clinch a berth in the state tournament.

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Windom Pirates pitcher Collin Lovell delivers in Friday's amateur baseball playoff game against the Fairmont Martins at Island Park. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WINDOM -- Runs were at a premium on Friday at Island Park as Fairmont defeated Windom 2-1 in a pitcher’s duel to sweep a Region 13C semifinal playoff series and clinch a berth in the state tournament.

Fairmont won the first game, 5-4.

Fairmont’s pitcher -- Pipestone draftee Brandan Alfson -- and Windom pitcher Collin Lovell were both lights-out on mound, but the Martins were just able to scratch one more run across. Alfson allowed one run on four hits with 13 strikeouts and four walks in a complete game effort. He retired 16 consecutive batters from the first-through-sixth innings.

“I felt comfortable. I pitched out here last Friday, so I’m familiar with the mound and familiar with the field,” Alfson said. “I had great defense behind me and that always helps.”

On the losing end, Lovell didn’t allow an earned run across eight innings of work and struck out 13 with two hits.

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“He’s our horse,” Windom player/coach Nick Kulseth said. “He keeps us in games. He’ll give you everything he’s got each and every time. When the game’s on the line he’ll give it to you.”

The game-winning run for Fairmont came in the eighth inning when Jack Waletich scored from second to make it 2-0 on a Tyler Tennyson high fly ball to center, resulting in a two-bag error. The Windom center fielder appeared to lose the ball in the lights and it fell in behind him.

The Pirates had opportunities to pull ahead as they left seven runners on base in the final three innings. They just couldn’t get the timely hits to drive in runs.

“I believe we deserved both games,” Kulseth said. “We just came up on the losing end of it with some mental errors out there. We need to clean our fielding up. But if we clean our fielding up and make one hit go through, this is a whole different ballgame.”

Perhaps the best opportunity for the Pirates to score came in seventh inning when they loaded the bases with one out. Luke Gilbertson got a leadoff single, Devin Nielsen was hit by a pitch and Jacob Johnson walked. But Alfson fought his way out of the jam, striking out Lovell and Jack Mellstrom to escape the inning unscathed.

Windom also had an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the ninth, but left runners on second and third.

“You’ve just got to keep throwing strikes and hope your defense can make a play,” Alfson said. “The only thing I can do on the mound is throw strikes. I can’t walk anybody. Just have to throw strikes and see what happens.”

Even though it is disappointing not to be taking his Pipestone teammates along with him, Alfson said he is excited to go back to state with the Martins.

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“It’s a privilege to get picked up by another team,” he said. “I’ve been picked up a couple times now by Fairmont and they’re a fun team to play with.”

The Martins move on to the Region 13C championship series where they will meet up with the winner of the series between Hadley and Milroy. The Irish lead the series 1-0 after a 1-0 win on Wednesday, with Game 2 today in Hadley at 2 p.m. and Game 3, if necessary, on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Milroy. The loser of the Hadley and Milroy series will play Windom with the third and final state tournament berth on the line.

“I believe it doesn’t matter who we see next week, Hadley or Milroy,” Kulseth said. “We’ve got the arms, we have some bats. When Wednesday comes, we’ll be ready to play.”

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