A soft-tossing left-hander often gives the Brainerd Warriors baseball team fits.
Delivering a repertoire of breaking pitches that kept Warrior hitters off-balance, left-hander Darin Ditterich and the Willmar Cardinals dealt second-ranked Brainerd its first defeat of the season, 2-1, Monday at Adamson Field.
The loss was Brainerd's first in 16 games. The Warriors' 15-0 start was their best since 1981.
"I guess we were kind of due for a game like this," Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said. "Their pitcher did a nice job. He was real herky-jerky and he changed speeds.
"We just couldn't seem to get anything going at all and they were fielding very well. And, I think there's a little bit of fatigue, maybe not physically, but mentally with playing so many games in the last two weeks. Being undefeated, I'm sure, is part of the mental fatigue. It almost gets like you're afraid to make a mistake."
The biggest mistake of Ditterich was hitting three batters. He went 5 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and no earned runs. He walked one and struck out three.
"His fastball is not that fast but he's got enough slow stuff to keep you off-balance," Willmar coach Mark Stier said. "We were hoping that would work. The only time we've had success against Brainerd is when we throw someone like this."
Ditterich was relieved by sophomore right-hander Zach Horning, who surrendered only one hit and one walk.
Brainerd threatened to at least tie it in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Jason Sather, who was 2-for-3, beat out an infield single to short. After pinch hitter Chris Klabo popped up, Chad Weiss walked. Horning then coaxed Drew Boland to bounce out to second, denying Brainerd's bid for an unbeaten season.
"When we got a chance for Drew to bat in the last inning I felt real good about our chances there," Scearcy said. "He just missed it a little bit."
Willmar scored its only runs in the first off losing pitcher Chad Weiss. Lane Keist drew a leadoff walk. Two outs later, catcher Cory Schwantes lined a two-run homer to right-center, his fourth of the season.
"He's been our clutch man all year," Stier said of Schwantes. "He's a kid if you make a mistake he's going to hit it. He hits fastballs well, just about anywhere in through there. He's been our constant all year."
After the first, Weiss pitched well enough to win. He gave up five hits and two earned runs, walked one and struck out four.
Willmar did not advance a runner past second base after the first inning. From the end of the second through the fifth, Weiss retired 10 of 11 batters.
"Chad fell behind some guys early," Scearcy said. "They got one up in the wind and that was the ballgame."
Brainerd punched across its only run in the fifth. With one out, Andy Pickar was hit by a pitch. Fred Weiss popped to short for the second out. Sather singled Pickar to second. Kevin Mertens then singled and Pickar scored when left fielder Pat Antil bobbled the ball.
Note: Klabo made his first appearance since suffering a bruised knee Friday against Patrick Henry.
Willmar 200 000 0 -- 2 5 1
Brainerd 000 010 0 -- 1 4 0
Willmar -- Darin Ditterich, Zach Horning (6) and Cory Schwantes. Brainerd -- Chad Weiss and Morgan Shepherd. W -- Ditterich. L -- Weiss (3-1).
2B -- Jeff Freeman (W). HR -- Schwantes. SB -- Drew Boland (B), Tony Parrish (B). RBI -- Schwantes 2. LOB -- W 3, B 7. DP -- W 1, B 1.
Conference -- W 7-4, B 9-1. Records -- W 9-5, B 15-1. Next game -- St. Cloud Tech at Brainerd 5 p.m. today.
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