The Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers Aaron Conyers took the mound on Thursday night, celebrating his 20th birthday, and his first start of the season at Mills Field with a chance to pitch the Lunkers into a first place tie with Mankato.
Conyers, who was on a 30 day contract, was also making his last start of the season as he was playing in his last game for Brainerd. With Vince Bruno, and Paul Toboni set to be activated on Friday after playing for California in the College World Series, the Lunkers would have to say good bye to Conyers and Tyler Harris.
Conyers was able to focus his emotions and ended up pitching a gem as the Lunkers used four early runs in the second inning to beat Rochester 7-1 for their fourth straight win.
“It was my last start...Wade (Wass). I really trust him behind the dish,” Conyers said. “So, I just really want to thank him a lot because without him I would not be 4 and 1. He’s the biggest accomplishment so far this year.”
The Lunkers stayed one game behind Mankato in the standings after the MoonDogs came back from a 5-4 deficit to win 9-5 at Thunder Bay.
In Wednesday night’s game against Rochester, Brainerd fell behind early before rallying to win 10-4. On Thursday night, the Lunkers never trailed in the game.
After going down 1-2-3 in the first two innings, the Lunkers broke through with three runs in the bottom of the third inning. Wass singled to open the inning and moved to second on a base hit from Ryan Abrahamson. Tyler Wampler made the first out, but Andrew Letourneau knocked both Wass and Abrahamson in with a double and the Lunkers were up 2-0.
Christian Stringer made the second out of the inning, and was followed by Tommy Reyes who walked. Dan Olinger the delivered an RBI double that scored both Letourneau and Reyes and Brainerd led 4-0.
The Lunkers picked up two runs in the bottom of the fourth and one in the fifth to make it a 7-1 lead. Abrahamson played a pig part in the fourth inning rally with a one out single to get offense going.
“I’ve been struglling a little bit up at the plate,” Abrahamson admitted. “I’ve been looking for something over the plate to drive back up the middle or the other way and I got two hits out of it tonight.”
The six run lead was more then enough for Conyers as he sailed through seven and 1/3 innings, scattering six hits and giving up just one earned run. Conyers gave way to Shea Lukes who finished the 8th inning, and the ball was then turned over to Harris for the ninth inning.
Harris set down the Honkers 1-2-3 and the Lunkers had their sixteenth win of the first half. Conyers was ecstatic that his teammate got the chance to pitch. “I wanted to give him(Harris) to get the ball in the ninth inning just so he could pitch his last game here,” Conyers said.
Brainerd now heads into the weekend with a game against Rochestter on Friday, followed by two games against Willmar. The Lunkers then close out the first half of the season with a three game series at Thunder Bay next week.
Mankato plasy one game at Thunder Bay and two games at Rochester, before closing out the first half with three games against St. Cloud.
The Lunkers have in advantage as they lost two games to rainouts in the first half. Because of that, a tie atop the division with Mankato will give Brainerd he division title due to a stronger winning percentage.
That is thanks in no small part to the efforst of Conyers, Harris and other Lunkers players who have played on partial contracts to start the season.
“We’re losing two really good players, but hopefully for their sake they’ll get a chance to play maybe in a different league, or maybe with another team in the south,” said Head Coach Ryan Levendoski.
“With temporary players, you never know what you’re going to get, but they definitely exceeded our expectations. So, we were definitely happy to have those guys, but we’re sorry to lose them now.”
Rochester 000 010 000 — 1 6 2
Brainerd 004 210 00x — 7 9 2
Rochester: Jeff McKenzie, Erik Mattingly (4), Nick Dolsky (6) and Scott Thornburg
Brainerd: Aaron Conyers, Shea Lukes (8), Tyler Harris (9) and Wade Wass
W: Conyers. L: McKenzie.
2B: Jake Marasco (R), Andrew Letourneau (B), Christian Stringer (B), Dan Olinger (B)
RBIs: Letourneau (B) 2, Tommy Reyes (B) 2, Olinger (B), Tyler Wampler (B)
LOB: Roc 6, Brd 9