Game-winning hits appear to be one of Alison LeBlanc's attributes.
The Brainerd junior center fielder put the Warriors ahead Tuesday in a season-opening 10-2 victory at Sartell, delivering on a two-strike pitch with the bases loaded and two out.
On Thursday at Adamson Field, LeBlanc delivered with one out in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 triumph over the Rocori Spartans.
LeBlanc flared a pop-up behind third base that Rocori shortstop Katie Kremer dove for but was unable to catch, scoring Erin Holznagel.
"It was a 1-2 count so I was just thinking anything close I had to swing at," LeBlanc said. "She pitched one in there and I swung. I didn't get a full cut on it, just a little piece of it, but I sent a little blooper over third base and got lucky."
Brainerd's Megan Arns delivered a pitch in Thursday's game. Arns chalked up nine strikeouts in the Warriors' 3-2 victory over Rocori.
LeBlanc had one hit in 13 at bats last season. She credited assistant coach Dan Bzdok with improving her swing this spring.
"He's given me a lot of confidence," LeBlanc said. "Last year I had a rough time batting. I'm just trying to go up there every time thinking I can hit it."
The Warriors nearly won the game earlier in the seventh. After doubling, Megan Arns tried to score on Holznagel's single to center but center fielder Tosha Schlangen threw her out.
LeBlanc's hit enabled Brainerd to complete a comeback from a 2-0 deficit. Rocori scored unearned runs in the third and fourth while the Warriors labored against Spartans right-hander Brooke Stommes.
Brainerd tied it 2-2 in the sixth. Arns led off with a double to right-center and eventually scored on LeBlanc's sacrifice fly. Holznagel scored the tying run from third when teammate Hilary Smith, who was 2-for-3, screened the Rocori shortstop on a ground ball, forcing her to bobble it, with the bases loaded.
"That's a heads-up play," Warriors coach Mike Zauhar said of Smith's baserunning. "Hilary has just done a great job swinging the bat the last two games. And, I had to stick her in at second base (replacing the injured Lindsey Jourdan). Hilary hasn't had much time over there. She's really taken her play to a new level."
Arns also appears to have taken her play to the next level. She ripped two doubles in four at bats. On the mound she fired a one-hitter, walked only one, struck out nine and hit two batters. The only hit she allowed was a fourth-inning single by Tosha Schlangen.
"Megan's just a gamer," Zauhar said. "She's a tough competitor. It's unfair for people to think she will be perfect all the time out there because she's only really been (pitching) a couple years. It's an unselfish move on her part to move from shortstop to pitcher.
"(Catcher) Abby Rehberger is a big part of that. She calls such a great game. She frames (pitches) so well. It's a 1-2 punch, it's not just Megan."
Notable: Jourdan injured an ankle while diving back to first on a pickoff attempt in the fifth inning and left the game. Before leaving she made a diving catch in the top of the inning on a blooper hit by Vickie Schlangen. Jourdan fell to the ground with the ball showing in the webbing of her glove.
Rocori 001 100 0 -- 2 1 3
Brainerd 000 002 1 -- 3 9 2
Rocori-Brooke Stommes, Ann Schneider (6) and Kristin Stanger, Kari Schroeder (5). Brainerd-Megan Arns and Abby Rehberger. W-Arns. L-Schneider.
2B-B-Arns 2. Sac-R-Heather Anderson, Kristin Stanger; B-Alison LeBlanc. RBI-R-Tosha Schlangen; B-LeBlanc 2. LOB-R 2, B 10.
Conference-R 1-1, B 2-0. Overall-R 1-1, B 2-0. Next game-Moorhead at Brainerd 11 a.m. Saturday (2).
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