The Brainerd Lunkers ended their 2011 season with their third straight loss Sunday night, falling to the St. Cloud River Bats 5-3 when their ninth inning rally fell short.
Matt Hillsinger lined out to third base with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth to finish the Lunkers season with a 35-34 record, their first wining season in franchise history.
The Lunkers Dan Olinger played at all nine positions during the game, including pitching in the ninth. Olinger was also named to the Northwoods League Postseason All-Star team. It adds to his list of awards as he also started and was named MVP in the Northwoods League All-Star game in July.
“It was obviously a great honor to get that type of award,” Olinger said. “There are a lot of good players in this league who just don’t get enough time. I’m really honored to get it along with a couple of my teammates, Jason Forget and Steven Brault, who were really great players. I feel blessed that I could be part of a great team and it was a fun summer.”
Kye Winter entered the game with a 4-4 record with 65 innings pitched and 2.35 ERA. Winter pitched five innings on Sunday night, striking out seven and surrendering just three earned runs.
The River Bats scored five runs in the first two innings, a deficit the Lunkers could not overcome. St. Cloud started the scoring in the first inning. Andy Henkemeyer hit a single to left field, followed by an infield hit by Kyle Stinerd. Carlos Lopez then hit a double to bring in both runs and later scored on an infield hit.
The River Bats scored two runs on two hits in the fourth to widen their lead to 5-0.
Brainerd first threatened on a single to left center by Kyle Crocker in the seventh, putting two men on base with one out. Jon Crist was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Pitcher Shea Lukes popped out to first base and the threat was over.
Casey Roche launched his fourth home run of the season off the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth, putting the Lunkers on the board with their first run.
Brainerd then rallied in the ninth with two outs. Crist delivered a hit and Lukes doubled to left center to score Crist. Olinger then doubled home Lukes and the Lunkers were back in the game at 5-3.
One of the more entertaining moments came in the eighth inning when Crist pitched in a relief role with Olinger doing the catching. It was part of a goal that Olinger had this year.
“I had been begging coach (Ryan) Levendoski to let me catch all year,” Olinger said. “He told me on Saturday that he would let me catch today and it was fun. Fly balls in the outfield were a totally different thing. It was a good time. We wanted to still play the game hard, but have fun doing it.
“I told coach Levendoski at the beginning of the year that unless he had another player to do a better job then me, I wanted to play every game. The longer I play this game I realize that you can’t take it for granted. It’s a great game and I love to play it. To play in front of the faithful group of Lunkers that came out every game, it’s probably one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
St. Cloud 300 200 000 — 5 8 2
Brainerd 000 000 012 — 3 10 1
St. Cloud: Tadd Johansen, Jeff Kelly (3), Keenan Kolinski (4), Andy Fagely (6), Derek Martinez (7), Tim Verthein (9), Andy Henkemeyer (8) Tim Verthein (9)and Corey Metoyer
Brainerd: Kye Winter, Shea Lukes (6), Jon Crist (8), Dan Olinger (9) and Jon Crist, and Olinger
W: Kelly. L: Winter.
2B: Carlos Lopez (SC), Ryan Abrahamson (Brd), Lukes (Brd), Olinger (Brd)
HR: Casey Roche (Brd)
SB: Lopez (SC), Jeremy Banks (SC)
RBIs: Lopez (SC) 2, Banks (SC), Metoyer (SC), Jordan Alexander (SC), Roche (Brd), Olinger (Brd)
DP: SC 2,
LOB: SC 4, Brd 7
Record: Brd 15-24, SC 20-19