Story courtesy of Fairmont Sentinel
ST. JAMES - Tanner Kluis proved the perfect multi-tasker during Saturday's 2nd District, Southwest Sub-District VFW baseball playoffs in St. James.
Kluis fired a five-hit complete-game gem from the mound, in addition to going 2-for-4 in the batter's box en route to two RBIs, to propel New Ulm Post 1648 to a 12-1, six-inning triumph over Fairmont Post 1222 in a clash of postseason unbeatens.
New Ulm Gold (23-5), which secured a spot in Thursday's 2nd District Tournament at Johnson Park in New Ulm, faces Fairmont at 1 p.m. today back at St. James for the Southwest Sub-District championship.
Fairmont, which bounced back to post a 9-3 victory over St. James in an elimination game on Saturday, also earned a spot in the district tournament by reaching today's showdown in St. James.
"We've qualified for the district, so I'm pleased with that. We'll probably see them (Fairmont) again (Sunday)," New Ulm Gold head coach David Shoen said prior to Fairmont's game against St. James.
Post 1648 wasted little time in staking Kluis to an early 3-0 lead behind two hits, a walk and a wild pitch during the top of the first inning.
Brach Kraus drew a one-out walk from Fairmont starting pitcher Josh Eversman before Chase Meyer and Jackson Yackley followed with back-to-back singles, with Yackley's infield hit plating Kraus.
Meyer, who had reached third base on Yackley's hit, crossed the plate on Collin Helget's squeeze bunt before Yackley scored on a wild pitch.
Kluis issued a leadoff walk to Spencer Chirpich during the home half of the first before recording two outs, but Chirpich eventually scored on Bailey Koppen's RBI single to left to trim Fairmont's deficit to 3-1.
Alex Stark and Kraus, however, utilized their speed to trigger New Ulm's two-run outburst during the top of the third to widen the lead to 5-1.
Stark walked and Kraus lined a hit-and-run single through the right side to put runners on the corners temporarily. Stark scored and Kraus advanced 90 feet on Meyer's RBI infield hit to short before Kraus crossed the plate on Helget's RBI groundout.
Kluis issued walks to Chirpich, Ben Abel and Koppen to load the bases with one out in the third, but centerfielder Chase Meyer and first baseman Tyler Dittrich kept Fairmont off the scoreboard by turning an inning-ending double play. Meyer caught Eversman's flyball before firing a strike to the cutoff player Dittrich. Dittrich zipped a perfect throw to the plate to nail the runner for the third out.
Grant Kannegiesser launched a leadoff triple to trigger Gold's five-run, six-hit fourth at-bat to extend the gap to 10-1.
Kannegiesser scored on Dittrich's RBI single to center before Dittrich eventually circled the bases on Stark's RBI single to right. Stark, who took second on Kraus' grounder, then trotted home on Meyer's third hit of the game before Meyer crossed the plate on Yackley's sizzling RBI double down the left-field line. Yackley later capped the offensive outburst by scoring on Kluis' single.
Despite singles from Chirpich, Jay Ruen and Koppen during the bottom of the fifth, Post 1222 did not score as New Ulm catcher Grant Kannegiesser caught the Fairmont lead runner in a pickle between third and home for the third out.
Kluis' RBI single and Kannegiesser's sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth capped New Ulm's 10-run rule victory.
Kluis allowed one earned run on five hits, struck out six and walked four in six innings to earn the victory.
Josh Eversman allowed 12 runs on 12 hits, walked five and did not notch a strikeout in six innings of work to take the loss.
Meyer went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and scored three runs for Gold, while Yackley and Kluis each produced two hits and two RBIs.
Koppen went 2-for-2 with Fairmont's only RBI, Chirpich went 1-for-1 with two walks and scored a run, while Nate Johnson added a hit.