ST. CLOUD – The Class 2A baseball tournament started at 10 a.m. Tuesday with a quarterfinal meeting between high schools representing areas with tremendous baseball pedigrees.
Arlington-Green Isle and Gaylord were fierce high school rivals until 1990, when the citizens approved a merger into Sibley East High School.
The athletic teams became the Wolverines and were playing in the state tournament for the first time since 1998, which seems a long wait for a school representing two towns and one stop on the road (Green Isle) that have been home to so many famous baseball families.
Sibley East would be facing Fairmont, the No. 1 seed in the eight-team field.
Fairmont's baseball history includes the Martins, one of the most famous teams of the post-World War II era of pay-for-play townball in Minnesota. The high school team has been a frequent visitor to the state tournament, and the current town team won the state Class C title in 2020.
There were a sizable number of fans wearing T-shirts of support for each team at Dick Putz Field, the older of the side-by-side ballparks at St. Cloud's sports complex.
The pregame chatter with fans included this attempt by a Sibley East backer to stir up some positive karma for the Wolverines.
"This is the ballpark where the Holy-Ta-Moley Home Run was hit,'' he said. "It was called Municipal Park then, but this is the place.''
As any Arlington baseball person of some vintage knows, that home run was a game-winner hit by the great Joe Driscoll in the opening round of the 1979 state amateur tournament — a bottom-of-the-ninth blast that allowed the A's to get through the first round against Maple Lake and on the way to a state championship.
It lives as the Holy-Ta-Moley homer because that's how it was saluted by Jim Bartels, doing play-by-play for KNUJ in New Ulm.
Bringing up that glorious home run then caused a sadder discussion:
Driscoll's current grave health condition, upsetting to what I'd estimate to be a few thousand of us with a townball interest who have cherished Joe as the ultimate character.
As it turned out, any Holy-Ta-Moleys uttered toward the Wolverines on Tuesday morning involved plays not made.
Fairmont scored in the bottom of the first on an error, a balk and an RBI single by cleanup hitter Jack Kosbab.
Sibley East tied it in the top of the third, and then — presto! — an error, a balk and a Kosbab single put Fairmont ahead to stay.
Jacob Schmidt, Sibley East's lefthanded ace, was twice deemed to have not come to a proper stop in his delivery by the ump at first base. I didn't catch the name, but perhaps Joe West is now working prep games.
Eli Anderson's leadoff triple for Fairmont led to a run that made it 3-1 in the fifth. Then, Anderson had a second, bases-emptying triple on a misplayed drive in a five-run sixth that sealed the deal.
Anderson was a record-breaking wide receiver for Fairmont, and he can fly.
Jacob Crissinger, Fairmont's No. 1 starter, is a strike-thrower of considerable prowess. He held the Wolverines to three singles — and a double on a misplayed fly ball — until the seventh.
Sibley East's Tucker Hendrycks hit a two-run home run to make the final 8-3 for Fairmont.
Crissinger and his catcher, Zach Jorgensen, have been teammates since they were T-ballers. "I love this guy; he is so easy to catch,'' Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen is that focal-point athlete you find at successful schools: tremendous passing quarterback, point guard in basketball, shortstop in 2021 and now excellent catcher.
His quarterback days are behind him: The Gophers were impressed with his hitting and range as a safety and he'll be on campus by this weekend, as a 2022 preferred walk-on in P.J. Fleck's program.
Crissinger has been more of an underdog tale. He was born and remains nearly blind in his left eye. He pitches while wearing a metal mask to protect his right eye.
"The mask is strictly a baseball thing,'' he said. "I wear safety goggles in basketball.''
Rumor has it, you were a fine and enthusiastic three-point shooter?
"That's right,'' Crissinger said. "I throw the ball to Zach in baseball, and he threw it to me when I was open in basketball.''
Crissinger reached the 115-pitch limit for the tournament on Tuesday. so he's done pitching for his high school career.
Fairmont plays Rochester Lourdes at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Dick Putz … making it another early-morning drive from dang near Iowa for their fans.
"Everybody's hoping we'll be playing our last one at Target Field on Friday,'' Jorgensen said.
And then, for him … Ski U Mah.