By ROGER THOMAS Courier correspondent
---- — FAIRFIELD — Fort Madison took advantage of Trojan errors in each of the first two innings to score three unearned runs and then played errorless ball behind pitcher Miles Wentzein to win the Class 3A, District 8 final 3-1 in baseball action Monday night in Fairfield.
As well as Fairfield has played over the final half of the season, the loss was a shock to some and maybe even considered an upset by some.
The Trojans brought a 25-8 record into the game that included a tie for the Southeast conference championship. In that conference action, they had defeated Fort Madison three of the four times they played.
“We’ve really been playing well lately,” said Fairfield coach Josh Allison. “What makes tonight so hard to accept is that we have delivered the timely hit in almost every case for most of the season.”
Spencer Peterman led off the game with a single for Fairfield, but Wentzein struck out the next two hitters to get his game started.
The visiting Bloodhounds scored a run in the bottom of the first. They used an error, a passed ball, a wild pitch, and Jacob Riley’s single to score.
Wentzein struck out the side in the second and quickly recorded the first five of his 10 strikeouts in the contest.
“I’m not sure about his whole season, but he (Wentzein) pitched pretty well against us down there (in Fort Madison),” added Allison.
Fort Madison used its final two hits of the night, a Trojan error, and some heady base running to score the two runs they would need to win the game.
Fort Madison loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the second. Then the Trojans pulled off a double play that quickly registered two outs, but allowed the two runs to score. With the bases loaded, David Guzman flied to right. The runner on third tagged and scored. The runner on first was doubled off to complete the play. The runner on second, after tagging, just kept running around third and scored while the Trojans were completing the double play.
That would be it for the Bloodhound offensive output. The Trojan pitching staff allowed no hits and only four base runners the rest of the game. All three Fairfield pitchers combined for a strong pitching line. Starter Austin Gridley along with relievers Ryan Gaumer and Peterman only allowed three hits and no earned runs in the loss.
The Trojans threatened in the top of the third. Jordan Reid led off with a single and Joseph Hietpas’ two-out hit put runners on first and second.
In the bottom of the inning, Fairfield overcame its third error and a walk by turning a 6-4-3 double play to keep the visitors from added more runs.
Each team went down in order in the fourth. Then came a critical part of the game for the Trojans. In the top of the fifth, Fairfield almost got to Wentzein. He threw eight consecutive balls to walk the first two Trojans. Narendra Martin then drilled a double to deep center field to score one. The next two Fairfield hitters struck out and, after issuing his third walk of the inning, Wentzein retired the next hitter on a routine ground out to first.
The Trojans quickly shook off the effects of the top of the inning as Gaumer and his defense needed only six pitches to retire the Bloodhounds. The boost was short lived as Wentzein returned the favor by retiring the Trojans in order in the sixth.
“We had a couple of parts of our line-up just not get it done tonight,” said Allison. “It’s too bad, because they have been solid all year.”
Fort Madison wasted a lead-off walk in the sixth. Peterman, on in relief, struck out two hitters and the Bloodhounds left the runner stranded at third.
The Trojans threatened in their final at-bat, using back-to-back two-out walks to get runners on. But then, just as the big, bright, orange full moon rose over the trees adjoining the field, the Trojan hopes for a district championship sunk as Wentzein recorded his 10th strikeout to end the game.
Peterman, Gaumer, Josh Dimmitt, Darrin Dimmitt, and Tyler Cooksey are the five seniors that all played a part in the Trojans fine 25-9 season.
Fort Madison (18-23) will play seventh-ranked Chariton (33-5) tonight in Ottumwa at 7 p.m. The winner will earn the Substate 4 championship ticket to the Class 3A State Baseball Tournament in Des Moines.
Class 3A, District 8 Final
Ft. Madison 3, Fairfield 1
FF 000 010 0 – 1 4 3
FM 120 000 x – 3 3 0
Fairfield battery – Austin Gridley (L, 6-1) (1 2/3IP, 3H, 3R, K, 3BB), Ryan Gaumer (3 1/3IP, K, 2BB), and Spencer Peterman (IP, 2K), Josh Dimmitt catching.
2B – Narendra Martin.
Hits – Peterman 1-for-3, Joseph Hietpas 1-for-3, Jordan Reid 1-for-2, Martin 1-for-3 .
RBI – Martin.
Runs – Gridley.
Fort Madison battery – Miles Wentzein (W, 4-2) (7IP, 4H, R, ER, 10K, 5BB), John Nagel catching.
Hits – Nagel 1-for-3, Wentzein 1-for-2, Jacob Riley 1-for-3.
RBI – Riley, David Guzman.
Runs – Nagel, Billy Coppage, Ryan Snaadt.