Kristi Ericksen spent extra time in the batting cage before Friday's Central Lakes Conference softball game.
Her struggles at the plate in Thursday's 3-0 victory over Sartell prompted the Brainerd Warriors senior to seek the hitting wisdom of assistant coach Dan Bzdok.
The help worked as Ericksen's eighth-inning single drove in Karlye Barron from second base to hand the Warriors a 6-5 victory over Willmar.
"I knew going up there that I had to have confidence so I just wanted to hit something," said Ericksen. "I went up there and just tried my best and I got a good cut and I got a hit."
Brainerd Warriors infielder Karlye Barron spanked this single in the fourth inning of Friday's game. Barron scored the Warriors' winning run in the eighth inning. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Erickson finished 3-for-4 with a run and RBI.
With two out in the eighth Barron laced a single and stole second. With two strikes Ericksen spanked her third single into center field. Barron rounded third and barreled into home plate for the victory.
"I didn't do very well (Thursday), but today in the cages before the game we worked on my swing," said Ericksen. "We shortened it up a little bit and he had me turn a little faster and it obviously helped me out."
Warriors head coach Mike Zauhar said Barron's steal, along with Ericksen's hit, were the keys to the victory.
"Knowing Karlye, I've known her for a couple of years, saw her play basketball, I knew she had great speed," Zauhar said. "I wasn't afraid to let her go. Then Kristi comes up and gets the big hit so that was huge."
Willmar's Allie Sweep (right) slid into second base as Brainerd Warriors second baseman Kristi Ericksen took the throw in Friday's game. Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Barron was 2-4 with two runs. Steph Neugebauer was 2-3 with a run and RBI, Hallsey Olson was 2-4 with a run and Emily Brink finished 3-4 with a run.
The Warriors rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the bottom of the fourth when Barron reached on a single and Ericksen followed with another single. Barron scored on a fielder's choice and Ericksen crossed home plate after Willmar pitcher Hanna Pederson was called for a balk.
Brink opened the third inning with a double and later scored on a wild pitch. Neugebauer walked and scored on a fielder's choice to tie the score at 3.
Freshman Karlie Manton struck out four, walked three and allowed 10 hits and five runs, two earned. After the fourth inning, Manton allowed just two runners to reach second base.
Kristi Ericksen drove in the winning run.
"Karlie is only a ninth-grader, but she is doing very well," said Zauhar. "She's got to realize when she throws strikes she is going to have defense behind her to help her out.
"Willmar is a dangerous team. They have some slappers, some speed and they know how to play the game. They don't make mistakes so for us to get another shot late in the game we have to feel lucky."
Warriors 6, Willmar 5
Key: Kristi Ericksen's single drove in Karlye Barron with the game-winning run
Conf: Brd 2-0
Overall: Brd 2-0
Next: Brainerd in Detroit Lakes tournament 9 a.m. Saturday.
The Warriors committed two errors and had a couple of base-running mishaps. Still Zauhar said he would rather win ugly than lose pretty.
"We struggled a little bit and we made some errors, but we came back with confidence and never gave up," said Ericksen. "Willmar is a good team so we had to go out there and do our best and we battled it out and got the win."
Willmar 013 100 00 - 5 10 0
Brainerd 102 200 01 - 6 13 2
WP: Karlie Manton. LP: Hanna Pederson. 2B: Brd-Steph Neugebauer, Will-Chelsey Wierschem.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.