Trailing 2-1 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the outlook wasn't promising for the Brainerd Warriors.
They had struggled to get a clutch hit against Willmar senior right-hander Hanna Pederson, who finished with 12 strikeouts and stranded three Warriors at third base, including the bases loaded in the first.
"Rallies are great with two outs if you score, but it's frustrating when you leave runners on base," Warriors coach Mike Zauhar said.
Fortunately for the Warriors the game didn't end on a frustrating note as they scored twice in the sixth and reliever Nikki Anderson shut the door to preserve Brainerd's 3-2 victory at Adamson Field on Tuesday.
Catcher Della Gramer led off the Brainerd sixth with a single and scored on Carlie Sweet's double up the gap in right-center. Sweet scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch.
Anna Tadych singled in the sixth inning of Brainerd's win against the Willmar Cardinals. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"At first I just wanted to hit the ball because we had a runner on base, just put it in play and make them make a mistake," said Sweet, who was 2-for-3. "Then she pitched a perfect pitch and I thought 'I have to get this,' and it worked out."
It also worked out as Zauhar replaced starter Karlie Manton after five solid innings with Anderson. The freshman lefty entered after a leadoff walk.
A fielder's choice, and passed ball, put Willmar runners at second and third. With one out, Anderson struck out Megan Rudie before walking Amanda Croonquist to load the bases. Anderson struck out Chelsey Hamann and Katie Switzer to retire the side.
"Karlie's coming off a month of mononucleosis," Zauhar said. "She pitched pretty good for five innings. The runs we did give up were sloppy. We had some miscues, but we hung in there and competed. We won ugly as they say."
Warriors 3, Willmar 2
The key: Carlie Sweet's double tied the game and she scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
Conference: Brd 2-0, Will 1-1
Overall: Brd 2-0, Will 1-1
Next: Fergus Falls at Brainerd 5 p.m. Thursday.
Willmar scored in the first inning during a rundown and added a run in the fourth on a single off the glove of diving left fielder Jayda Fraser. The Cardinals were denied a third run in the fourth due to runner interference.
Brainerd pitcher Nikki Anderson closed out Tuesday's victory against the Willmar Cardinals. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Manton finished with seven strikeouts and two walks, gave up six hits and two earned runs. Anderson walked one, struck out five and allowed no hits in two innings.
The Warriors scored their first run in the fifth. Fraser led off with a single, went to second on Hallsey Olson's bunt single, took third on Jenni Smolke's bunt and scored on a wild pitch.
"I was really pleased how we competed at the end of the game," Zauhar said. "We didn't throw the towel in. Nikki Anderson came in and shut the door on the pitching end. We got a big hit from Carlie Sweet. Della Gramer led off the inning with a base hit. We had some kids that came through."
Brainerd had struggled all day long to catch up to Pederson's fastball and was off-stride against her changeup. Still, the Warriors managed nine hits.
"By the end of it we were timing her," Sweet said.
Willmar 100 100 0 - 2 6 0
Brainerd 000 012 x - 3 9 1
Willmar: Hanna Pederson and Brittney Hastad. Brd: Karlie Manton, Nikki Anderson (6) and Della Gramer.
W: Manton. L: Pederson. Sv: Anderson.
2B: Haylee Hastad (W), Carlie Sweet (B). 3B: Jayda Fraser (B). SB: Haylee Hastad (W), Sara Kallhoff (W), Jenni Smolke (B), Chelsey Wierschem (W) 2. Sac: Smolke. RBIs: Amanda Croonquist (W), Sweet. LOB: Brd 7, Will 6.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com and at 855-5861.
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