The Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers entered Thursday night’s game with a 6-9 record and trailed league-leader Alexandria by three games. The Lunkers were in need of a sweep in their two-game series against the Beetles to get back into the race.
After a 16-4 victory over Alexandria on Wednesday night, the Lunkers sent All Star Joe Willman to the mound on Thursday night in search of his fourth victory.
Alexandria countered with Michael Reed who enterd the game with a 3-2 record. After getting 19 hits on Wednesday, the Lunkers couldn’t solve Reed. The righthander allowed just one run over seven innings as the Lunkers fell to the Beetles 6-1.
“Michael has been good for us at times,” said Alexandria head coach Matt Hancock. “He has struggled at times but the one thing that we look for him to overcome is the big inning. Tonight he was able to escape that one big inning, and was able to keep his pitch count down.”
Chris Fritts, who came into Thursday night’s game with a .130 average against the Lunkers, hit a two-out home run to right center field in the top of the fifth inning to give Alexandria a 4-1 lead. In the inning, the Beetles got all of their base runners with two out.
Fritts then drove in another run in the seventh inning with a single as Alexandria gained a split in the series.
Willman pitched six innings for Brainerd, giving up the four runs on six hits, while striking out four.
The game was also delayed twice due to lightning in the area. It just adds to a list of weird weather that the Lunkers have had this year. However, head coach Ryan Levendoski was not willing to make excuses.
“I think it’s a struggle if you make it a struggle,” Levendoski said. “We have a complete lack of focus and we have six all stars who aren’t playing like it. It’s very frustrating.”
It also had an affect on Alexandria as Hancock explained. “I think it’s really tough to be honest with you. Keeping them focused if everything is status quo and on schedule is tough. But when you have the delays you wonder how you will come back.”
The Lunkers only scoring activity happened in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Nick Hamilton hit a hard shot off of Reed’s foot for a hit. Casey Roche doubled to right center field, putting runners on second and third. Dan Olinger then laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Reed and tie the game at one.
Christian Stringer led off the bottom of the second inning with a double to center field that fell just outside of the glove of a diving Chad Bunting. Stringer then had to leave the game with a hamstring injury. Ryan Abrahmson came in to pinch run, but was stranded at third base.
The Lunkers couldn’t manage any offense after that. To add more insult to injury, the Lunkers learned that outfielder Andrew Letourneau, who had a big game for Brainerd on Wednesday is lost for the season.
“He has been dealing with some back pain,” said Levendoski. “His coaches (at Cal-St. Bakersfield) decided that it was better for him to get back home and get some treatment.”
Alexandria 100 030 200 — 6 10 2
Brainerd 100 000 000 — 1 6 0
Alexandria: Michael Reed, Michael Schweiss (8), and Dale Ricketts
Brainerd: Joe Willman, Charlie Henderson (7), Tyler Sparger (8), and Jon Crist
W: Reed. L: Willman.
2B: Chad Bunting (A), Mie LeViseur (A), Casey Roche (B), Christian Stringer (B)
3B: Kevin Grove (A)
HR: Chris Fritts (A)
RBIs: Bunting (A), Fritts (A) 4, Nick Gumm (A), Dan Olinger (B)
LOB: Alx 3, Brd 6