Second place in the Central Lakes Conference was at stake Thursday when the Brainerd Warriors hosted the Rocori Spartans at Adamson Field.
The teams almost didn't have an opportunity to determine second place since a case of swine flu was confirmed earlier Thursday at the middle school in Cold Spring.
After conferring with the Minnesota Department of Health, the governor's office, the Minnesota State High School League and conference superintendents the decision was made to play and Rocori pulled out an 8-6 victory.
Rocori 8, Warriors 6
The key: Scott Willenbring's two-run single in the top of the seventh gave Rocori the victory.
Conference: Brd 5-3, Roc 6-2
Overall: Brd 9-3, Roc 7-3
Next: Moorhead at Brainerd 10 a.m. Saturday.
"They had agreed that as long as the department of health said there wasn't anything to be too concerned about that we would go ahead and play activities and we would try to limit contact, like shaking hands after the games," Spartans coach Jeff Illies said.
"For the boys, obviously, you never like the negative media attention, but allowing them to keep their minds on baseball helps them stay focused," Illies added.
The Spartans built 1-0, 4-2 and 6-4 leads but Brainerd rallied to take a 2-1 lead and twice came back to tie it.
"We didn't do as good a job as we would have liked in controlling the strike zone when we were hitting," Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said. "Obviously, it's not the first game we've lost in the last inning by taking a called strike three to end the game. It seems to me we did that here Tuesday (in a 3-2 loss to Little Falls)."
Rocori won it in the top of the seventh on pinch-hitter Scott Willenbring's two-out, two-run single off Kyle Crocker, who pitched a complete game for the Warriors.
"We were talking about that (after the game) that our goal as a team is to give us an opportunity to win in the end," Illies said. "If we feel we have a chance to win in the seventh that means we've been doing something right during the game."
Brainerd's Joel Martin, who was 2-for-3, led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk before reliever Chris Lardy struck out two of the last three Warriors on called third strikes.
"It just wasn't a good day for us," Scearcy said. "Hopefully, they're going to get better."
The Warriors trailed 4-2 in the fifth when Martin's two-run single tied it.
Shane Rausch's two-run homer in the sixth to left put Rocori ahead 6-4.
The Warriors tied it 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth when Desmond Janousek, who was 2-for-3, crushed a two-run shot to left following Thomas Fairbanks' leadoff double.
The Spartans' Nick Schneider also homered, hitting a solo blast to left-center in the fourth that tied it 2-2.
"In the seventh we pinch hit a righty for a lefty because of (the wind)," Illies said. "You need breaks like that once in a while to win a game. We'll take that.
"I don't know the last time we've come up here and beat Brainerd on their home field. We'll take any win we can get up here."
After Schneider's home run, Scott Schroeder scored on an error, one of six by the Warriors, and Derek Lieser ripped an RBI double into the left-field corner.
Rocori 100 302 2 - 8 9 1
Brainerd 020 022 0 - 6 8 6
Rocori: Scott Willenbring, Chris Lardy (6) and Shane Rausch. Brd: Kyle Crocker and Nate Smolke. WP: Lardy. LP: Crocker.
2B: Derek Lieser (R), Thomas Fairbanks (B). HR: Nick Schneider (R), Rausch, Desmond Janousek (B). SB: Lardy, Fairbanks, Janousek, Crocker, Rausch. RBIs: Eric Loxtercamp (R), Janousek, Nick Schneider, Lieser, Joel Martin (B) 2, Rausch 2, Janousek 3, Willenbring 2. DP: Roc 1. LOB: Roc 5, Brd 8.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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