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Shirek shines to outduel Fargo for state title

Shortly after throwing his last strike, getting mobbed and receiving the player of the tournament award, Minot pitcher Charlie Shirek came to a realization.

Shortly after throwing his last strike, getting mobbed and receiving the player of the tournament award, Minot pitcher Charlie Shirek came to a realization.

He had just pitched one of the best games a Legion ball player could against a powerful offensive team that pitched almost as good of a game.

With everything on the line, Shirek pitched 10 scoreless innings and led Minot to a 4-0 win in 10 innings over Fargo at the Class A American Legion state championship game. Minot was forced to play a second game after Fargo won 12-2 in eight innings in the early contest.

Minot will now play at the Central Plains Regional Thursday in New Ulm, Minn.

"It's surreal in a way -- a shutout to win a championship," Shirek said. "It's hard to explain. I am just excited to play more baseball."

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In the 10th inning, Minot hit two consecutive doubles off of relief pitcher Caleb Luecke and capitalized on a Fargo fielding error.

Dale Allard knocked in Josh Heilman with a double to score the game's first run.

A later sacrifice fly and hits by Andrew Gudmunson and Shirek scored two more as Minot took a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the 10th.

"We played well the second game," Fargo coach Bill Ibach said. "We just ran out of gas."

Fargo and Minot combined for 18 innings of scoreless ball as both teams held each other to goose eggs during regular play.

Fargo led off with Aaron Seelig on the mound, allowing no runs through five innings with three strikeouts and five hits allowed. Seelig, who threw a no-hitter against Minot earlier this season, was only taken out of the ball game because he had exceeded his innings pitched mark.

Brett Gustafson and Reid Kittelson followed Seelig and combined for four innings of scoreless ball.

In the 10th inning and needing four runs, Shirek struck out the Fargo side, capping off his 11 strikeout performance.

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Minot players immediately ran onto the field to meet their pitching star and jumped up and down, some with their hats in the air.

The silence near the Post 2 dugout was deafening. Players stood apart from one another and watched as Minot carried the trophy as team champions.

The quality of their pitching and inability to knock in the runs made the defeat much more difficult for Post 2.

"It's tough on these kids," Ibach said. "They are taking it hard. We were one inch short of a state championship. It's a real great group of guys. ... I will never forget it."

The mood on the other side couldn't have been any different.

Minot coach Todd Larson received the award for coach of the year and was visibly shaken by the team's victory. It was Minot's third championship in two years. Fargo was seeking its first title since 1992.

"(Shirek's) got the stuff, pitching nine-plus innings," he said. "When he is on, he is top notch. Today he showed why he is being recruited by Division I teams."

Shirek, an 18-year-old senior in high school this fall, wasn't a stranger to hero status at the tournament.

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He earned the victory and hit the game-winning run in a 10-9 win against Fargo that sent Post 2 to the loser's bracket in the tournament. But nothing compares to that 10-scoreless inning pitching performance.

"I feel pretty close to (invincible)," he said. "It's just a rush."

Both of Fargo's games proved it deserved to be in the hunt for the title.

In the first contest that forced a second deciding game, Fargo belted four home runs and scored seven runs in the eighth inning to put them up 12-2. Every starting player on Post 2 got a hit.

But Shirek's pitching performance in the second game proved to be unbeatable.

Shirek forced 12 groundouts out of 30 outs and threw 3-Zc innings before giving up a hit.

Fargo's Reid Arnold won't go home empty handed, however. He received the American Legion player of the year award and a $1,000 scholarship.

Fargo 100 121 07-- 12 18 3

Minot 000 000 02-- 2 4 1

Laber and Ouren. Deutsch, Lundeen (8) and Knaup. W--Laber. L--Deutsch. HR--F, Pederson. F, Kary. F, Sommerfeld. F, Kittelson.

Minot 000 000 000 4-- 4 10 2

Fargo 000 000 000 0-- 0 5 2

Shirek and Steele. Seelig, Gustafson (6), Kittelson (7), Luecke (10), Krabbenhoft (10) and Ouren. W--Shirek. L--Luecke.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michael Klinski at (701) 235-55491

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