The Brainerd Lunkers took the bite out of the Duluth Huskies with two outs in the ninth when an errant throw allowed Matt Hillsinger to reach first safely while teammate Christian Stringer crossed home plate, giving Brainerd a 2-1 victory in Northwoods League action Monday night.
Casey Roche went 2-3 while Stringer went 2-4 for Brainerd to combine for four of the Lunkers seven hits, none of which were for extra bases.
Aaron Griffin pitched six innings of shutout baseball for the Lunkers, only giving up four hits while walking three and striking out sixth. The game would end for Griffin in the same fashion it did in his last start when after pitching seven shutout innings against the Mankato Moondogs he walked away with a no decision.
“Aaron did a great job pitching out of trouble,” said Mangager Ryan Levendoski.” He didn’t have the same command as in the Mankato game, but he was around the plate, got some key strikeouts, and did a fantastic job loading up the zone.”
The game remained scoreless after four innings . The Lunkers came close to ending the run of goose eggs on the board in the fifth, when Roche singled with two outs, and two walks later the bases were loaded for Steven Brault who worked the count to 3-2 before hitting a long fly ball to center to ending the inning.
After walking a Husky in the bottom of the sixth with two outs Griffin found himself in a bit of trouble with runners on the corners. He responded to the walk by striking out the next Husky on four pitches, getting himself out of a jam, while preserving his shutout in the process.
The bottom of the sixth saw the Lunkers in the same position as the fifth. Only this time with two outs and the bases loaded Roche hit a looping RBI single to short left. Tyler Wampler was the runner who scored on the play but Stringer, who was following Wampler home, was tagged out at the plate for the third out.
In the top half of the eighth Duluth scored one on a walk and a triple ending Griffins chance to get the win. The inning ended with another exciting play at the plate as Husky Adam Humes was caught trying to steal home and tagged out by Brainer cather Wade Wass.
“Wade made a great play at home to get that guy out,” said Levendoski.
The bottom of the ninth started out with an infield single from Stringer who ran out a softly hit ball to third. The next batter, Ryan Abrahamson, did his job by laying a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line, advancing Stringer to second. Wampler then walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Wass hit a grounder to second and barely ran out a throw that would have been an inning-ending double play. With two outs and the winning run on third, Hillsinger approached the plate with a chance to win the game and with the help of that errant throw he did.
With the win the Lunkers remain one game behind first-place Mankato, which beat the Willmar Stingers 6-2 in the North Divison.
Brainerd will try two make it four home wins in a row against Duluth on Tuesday night at Mills Field.
Duluth 000 000 010 —1 5 2
Brainerd 000 001 001 —2 7 0
Duluth: Tyler King, Dylan Thomas (7), and Jacob Wise
Brainerd: Aaron Griffin, Tyler Sparger (7), Chase Webb (9), and Wade Wass.
W: Webb. L: Thomas.
2B: D-KC Clabough, Chris Manship
DP: D 1
LOB: D 8, Brd 8