Perham’s ability to get the big inning did not come to fruition thanks to the pitching and defense of the Paynesville Area Bulldogs. Grady Fuchs held Perham to three hits when the Bulldogs defeated Perham 3-2 in the Class 2A Tournament at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud on June 13.
“I thought we battled. We hit the ball well but it was right at them and that’s the nature of baseball,” Perham head coach James Mulcahy said. “They got a lot of little nubbers and bloop base hits, but that’s just baseball. Sometimes, they don’t go our way. One defensive or offensive miscue is the difference in the game and that’s really what it comes down to.”
Luke Johnson led the way with a timely bloop double down the line in right, which gave Paynesville Area all the runs they would need. He finished with two of the team’s five hits and drove in a pair of runs. He played a key role defensively as well for the Bulldogs, despite committing a pair of errors. He finished with five defensive assists and a pair of putouts.
Both Fuchs and Perham’s Noah Rooney were in command of the game on the mound. Rooney went the distance and struck out 11. He walked one batter and gave up five hits. His counterpart, Fuchs, allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked one.
“That’s state level baseball. You are going to get the best of the best. You are going to go No.1 against No. 1,” Mulcahy said. “Both pitchers pitched phenomenally. We didn’t struck out that much and Rooney strikes out 11. He kept his team in the game at all times. I couldn’t be more proud of how he pitched.”
A one-out walk started the Paynesville Area rally in the third. Max Weidner walked and a single by Zach Schroeder put two on with one out. A passed ball put runners in scoring position for Levi Best. Best hit a ground ball just wide of the mound, but no play was made, which loaded the bases. Rooney followed with a strikeout, but Luke Johnson dropped one down the right field line to score two. The throw in from the outfield was errant, which allowed Best to take off and score, giving Paynesville Area the 3-0 lead.
Perham answered in the bottom of the third when Sam Still ripped a triple to the right centerfield gap, which was followed by a double from Carter Mulcahy. However, a baserunning mistake eliminated a runner off of the bases, which prevented a rally from developing.
“We are a big inning team and a lot of times we can put up a crooked number,” Mulcahy said. “One or two base running faux pas and two defensive mistakes in one inning gives them three runs and us only one. Somethings you can control and some things you can’t.”
Perham threatened again in the seventh and had the tying run on second base, but couldn’t push him across. Chayse Solberg reached second when the ball was misplayed in centerfield. Finn Diggins, running for Solberg, scored when Michael Benke reached on an error. Fuchs eluded further damage when he induced a ground ball and recorded a strikeout for the final out.
Still, Mulcahy and Solberg finished with the lone hits for Perham in the loss. Johnson, Fuchs and Zach Schroeder had two hits each with Johnson driving in two runs.
With the win, Paynesville Area improves to 22-2, while Perham drops to 22-3. Paynesville Area will now play Duluth Marshall, who defeated Glencoe-Silver Lake 4-3 in the first game. Perham will play Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Class AA Consolation round at 10 a.m. at Faber Field in St. Cloud on June 14.
“Obviously, we are all disappointed. Our goal was to play three games and be in the state championship game,” Mulcahy said. “That doesn’t change as far as playing three games if we were going to lose. Our goal is still three games and let’s get to fifth place. We can’t let down and just be okay with two games and be done. Our goal is three games and it’s still our goal. It just happens to be a different three games.”
PA 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 3 5 3
PER 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2 3 3
WP: Grady Fuchs
LP: Noah Rooney