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Perfect set-up: Vikings move on to the state title game

ST. CLOUD — The Hayfield baseball team couldn’t have drawn it up any better as they saved their ace pitcher and advanced to the state title game in beating No. 5 Springfield (19-8 overall) 16-0 in five innings in the Minnesota Class A State Baseball Tournament semifinals at Faber Field Wednesday.

Hayfield senior Joey Tempel allowed a first inning double with two outs, but was quick to rebound, allowing just two baserunners the rest of the way while striking out nine. Erik Bungum gave the Vikings a huge boost early with a two-run homer to left field with two outs in the second inning.

It was Tempel’s first complete effort in the entire postseason, but he showed no signs of fatigue or rust as he retired seven Springfield hitters in a row after that early extra base hit.

“We’ve been playing well and I knew we could score,” Tempel said. “I just decided to go out there and pitch. Once we had that lead, I knew I just had to keep pitching.”

Hayfield head coach Kasey Krekling wasn’t sure whether to throw Tempel or junior Easton Fritcher, so he let the two of them decide in the hotel on Tuesday night.

“We told them to talk it over and Easton had thrown a lot of pitches in warm ups yesterday,” Krekling said. “We were kind of leaning towards Joey as coaches anyway, but we were going to let them decide. They know their arms.”

Fritcher went two-for-four with a double and two RBIs at the plate playing center field for the Vikings (25-0). He didn’t mind handing the semifinal start over to Tempel, who delivered in a big way.

“I had complete confidence in Joey,” Fritcher said. “He’s been a good pitcher, he’s got good stuff and he’s got great confidence. He did a great job today and he kept his head up.”

Hayfield’s entire lineup also delivered in the win as eight Vikings reached base multiple times. No. 9 hitter Nolan Klocke had an RBI single and No. 8 hitter Isaac Watson had a single and three RBIs.

“Our team is so talented, one through nine,” Fritcher said. “We hit the ball anywhere, wherever it’s pitched. The guys take it very seriously in the cage.”

The Vikings have now outscored their opponents 78-7 in postseason play. Lyle-Pacelli was responsible for six of those runs in the Section 1A Tournament.

“Once we get on a roll, it seems like it’s contagious,” Krekling said. “It just doesn’t stop. They love each other and they have fun playing with each other and now they get to do it at Target Field.”

Fritcher will now have the opportunity to pitch in the Class A state title game as the Vikings will play either New York Mills or Randolph at 10 a.m. Friday in Target Center. He is embracing that opportunity.

“These are my guys and most of them have been my neighbors and my best friends for my whole life,” Fritcher said of his teammates. “I’m super excited to pitch in Target Field. I love baseball and to be able to pitch in the stadium for my favorite team is a blessing. I’m going to take full advantage of it.”

This is Hayfield’s first appearance in the state title game and it is Hayfield’s second appearance in the state tournament.

Hayfield           027 70  – 16  12  1
Springfield     000 00  – 0    2  2
Hayfield pitching: Joey Tempel (W) 5 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 9 K
Hayfield hitting: Easton Fritcher, 2-for-4, double, 2 RBIs, R; Joey Tempel, 2-for-4, RBI, 2 R, SB; Karver Heydt, 3-for-4, 2 RBIs, Lucas Hansen, 1-for-2, 3 R, 2 BBs; Isiaiah Tempel, 1-for-2, RBI, 2 R, BB; Ethan Slaathaug, 0-for-2, R, BB; Erik Bungum, 2-for-3, HR, double, 3 RBIs, 3 R; Ethan Slaathaug, 0-for-2, R, BB; Erik Bungum, 2-for-3, HR, double, 3 RBIs, 3 R; Isaac Watson, 1-for-2, R, 3 RBIs, BB; Nolan Klocke, 1-for-2, RBI, 2, BB; Kael Becker, 0-for-1; Aiden Nelson, 0-for-1; Ethan Pack, 0-for-1