Even though the Brainerd softball team had already clinched the Central Lakes Conference title on Tuesday, the Warriors wanted to end the conference portion of their schedule with a bang.
Brainerd did just that as it blanked the Rocori Spartans 10-0 in six innings Thursday at Adamson Field. The win keeps the Warriors' CLC record a spotless 14-0, the first time in program history a Brainerd squad has gone unbeaten in conference play.
The CLC title is also Brainerd's third, after winning championships in 1999 and 2004.
"These kids have battled hard all year and the attitudes are all good," Warriors coach Mike Zauhar said. "We have just such great senior leadership and they've been outstanding in supporting one another. Going 14-0 in the conference doesn't happen every day. They're a wonderful team to be around."
Brainerd softball player Calliegh Johnson connects with a pitch during the Warriors' 10-0 win over the Rocori Spartans Thursday at Adamson Field. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
» Purchase reprints of this photo.
The Spartans looked to spoil the Warriors' run to perfection in the first inning as Melanie Hilsgen and Sam Pfannenstein reached on singles and moved to second and third on a passed ball. But Warrior pitcher Kelsey Kunde struck out the next two batters and forced a groundout to end the threat.
After Brainerd scored a run in the bottom half of the first when Tika Klauck drew a bases-loaded walk, Rocori threatened again, putting runners on first and second with one out. Again the Warriors escaped the jam unscathed.
The three hits in the first two innings was all Rocori could muster and Kunde allowed just two baserunners over the next four innings.
"Kelsey's been great this year and she helps us make up the best pitching staff in the conference," said Zauhar. "She's going to be very important to us in the playoffs. She was really throwing some steam today and she gutted it out when they got runners on base in the first two innings."
Brainerd broke the game open in the bottom of the second inning as it scored five runs on three hits, with the biggest hit coming from designated player Karlye Barron, who laced a single with the bases loaded to plate two runs.
Klauck drove in her second run of the game in the inning without swinging the bat as she drew another bases-loaded walk.
Members of the Brainerd Warriors softball team cheered from the dugout during its 10-0 win over the Rocori Spartans Thursday at Adamson Field. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"Karlye's first at-bat was ugly," Zauhar said. "Coach Bzdok talked to her and she was aggressive her second time around and she just drove the ball hard. She's had a great year for us and we're pleased with her play."
The Warriors scored twice in the fifth as Kristi Ericksen and Kunde drove in runs. They ended the game with two runs in the sixth as Brainerd's reserves took over. Anna Johnson singled and Katherine Wheeler reached on a fielder's choice. Johnson scored on an Erica Bybee single and Wheeler gave the Warriors the win as she scored on a passed ball.
"We probably should've played them more, I'm sure their parents are thinking that," Zauhar said of his reserve players. "I wish I could've played them more because they all deserved it. We just have a lot of kids who can play, which is good to have."
The Warriors, led by Steph Neugebauer and her rocket arm at shortstop, turned in a solid defensive effort by playing error-free ball the entire game.
Warriors 10, Rocori 0
The key: The Warriors' five-run second inning, keyed by Karlye Barron's two-run single, broke open the game.
Conf: Brd 14-0, Roc 3-11
Overall: Brd 18-1, Roc 4-12
Next: Brd hosts Bemidji 5 p.m. Friday.
"We're making the plays when we need to on defense," Neugebauer said. "We really have to watch the deflections off the pitcher and you have to know where you're going to go with the ball with every hitter.
"Rocori got on us early but we were calm and talked about checking the runner. Our defense has been knocking the ball down and that's given us the opportunity to hold the runners on base."
Rocori 000 000 - 0 3 1
Brainerd 150 022 - 10 9 0
Rocori: Kendra Plantenberg, Karen Janssen (5) and Traci Theilen. Brainerd: Kelsey Kunde and Emily Brink. W: Kunde. L: Plantenberg.
2B: Brd-Steph Lambrecht, Emily Brink. Sac: Roc-Tina Welle 2. RBI: Brd-Tika Klauck 2, Karlye Barron 2, Erica Bybee, Kristi Ericksen, Kunde. LOB: Brd 6, Roc 6. DP: Roc 1.
TROY GUNDERSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.