Fans may have come out to watch the Brainerd Warrior' softball team as a way of getting outside to enjoy the sparkling weather Thursday in Brainerd.
But, as nice as the day was, the real attraction turned out to be a gem of a pitching duel between the Warriors' Laura Clemens and Rocori's Lindy Sparby.
The Warriors lost the Central Lakes Conference contest 2-1 when Rocori scrambled to produce a run in the top of the seventh. But, for the bulk of those seven innings, Clemens and Sparby were hooked up in a chess match on the mound.
"Laura Clemens did a great job," said Warriors head coach Mike Zauhar. "She and Melynda Ringstrom, our other pitcher, have been throwing strikes extremely consistently and that's enabled us to stay in ballgames.
"Sparby throws a lot of off-speed stuff. She throws a rise ball and she usually throws a great percentage of strikes. She's probably one of the best pitchers in the conference, if not the best one."
While the pitchers were dominant on the mound and batters from both teams tried every tactic in the book to try and produce a run, the Warriors made some sparkling defensive plays that choked off potential Rocori rallies.
Twice, Warriors third baseman Jessie Pohlkamp fielded ground balls, wheeled and threw out runners at second who had strayed too far from the base.
"We need to get those kind of plays out of our infielders," said Zauhar. "When we do, we compete very well. As long as our defense is good, we're going to be right there. Tonight, I thought our defense was really good."
A couple of times the Warriors ran themselves out of scoring opportunities with mental lapses on the basepaths.
"We were into the ballgame and had a chance to win it early," said Zauhar, "but we made a couple of baserunning mistakes. And, Rocori made some nice plays on some of our attempts to steal.
"It was a great game. We played well, they played well, and they came out on top."
Rocori took the early lead with a run in the first but Brainerd answered in the bottom of the third as it scored a run on just one hit.
Warriors second baseman Sarah Johnson opened the inning with a double. She eventually scored on a groundout by catcher Sacha Holbrook. Johnson and Alyssa Anderson each had a pair of hits for the Warriors.
The game cruised along tied 1-1 until Rocori manufactured its winning run in the bottom of the seventh. The winning run was driven in by a two-out single off the bat of Rocori center fielder Mandy Fladmark.
"We've had two real good ballgames with Rocori," said Zauhar. "Today, our effort was very good. Rocori is leading the conference by a number of games so the way we competed, I was just very pleased."
The loss evened the Warriors' conference record at 7-7. Section seedings are due to be announced later today. Zauhar likes where his team is positioned for its playoff run.
"I'm thinking we may get the No. 3 seed in the section," Zauhar said, "possibly No. 4 so we're sitting in pretty good shape.
Rocori 100 000 1 -- 2 4 1
Brainerd 001 000 0 -- 1 6 3
Rocori -- Lindy Sparby and Megan Jahnke; Brainerd -- Laura Clemens and Sacha Holbrook. WP -- Sparby. LP -- Clemens. Conference -- Brainerd 7-7. Overall -- Brainerd 9-9. Next game -- Brainerd at Moorhead today 3:30 p.m. (2).
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