Try as they might, there was just too much for the Brainerd Warriors softball team to overcome.
Throughout the season, the Warriors adjusted to misfortune and adversity. First, they lost starting center fielder Haley Bower, who's in Germany, after five games. Then Brainerd lost starting catcher Leigha Walters for the season with a broken hand.
In Monday's loss to Bemidji, a ball struck starting pitcher Erin Donnelly's throwing hand while she was attempting a bunt. That injury was enough to keep the Warriors' workhorse off the mound Tuesday against the Fergus Falls Otters.
The Otters took advantage, ending Brainerd's season with a 5-2 victory at Adamson Field on the final day of the North Subsection 8, Class 3A tournament.
"Expectations were very high for this team from the beginning of the year," Warriors coach Mike Zauhar said. "We lost Bower, we lose Walters. (Abby) Rehberger was playing with a bum knee the entire year. But our kids competed very well and played through some pain. We never threw the towel in and I was very, very pleased with their effort."
Megan Arns, who only threw 16 innings in the regular season, pitched admirably. Arns gave up five runs on six hits while striking out six and walking three.
Brainerd Warriors pitcher Megan Arns delivered to a Fergus Falls batter in Tuesday's game.
Donnelly's injury put the Warriors' defense in a state of flux. With Arns pitching, Alyssa Anderson moved to shortstop and Donnelly manned first base.
"We didn't want to take (Donnelly's) bat out of the lineup so we stuck her at first and moved Alyssa to short," said Zauhar. "I hate to move Arns from short but Alyssa played very well and Donnelly played very well.
"I thought Arns threw the ball very well but Fergus scratched out some bloop hits and put some things together."
The Otters did what the Warriors were unable to do: Get hits with runners in scoring position.
High school softball
North Subsection 8, Class 3A
Fergus Falls 5, Brainerd 2, Brainerd eliminated
Championship: Bemidji 9, Fergus Falls 2
Section Championship Series
Bemidji vs. Willmar
With the score tied at one in the fifth inning, Fergus Falls put runners at second and third with no outs. Two consecutive hits and a Warrior error scored four Otter runs to break the game open.
In the sixth, the Warriors stranded runners at second and third. In the final inning, Brainerd loaded the bases but was unable to come up with the big hit it needed to score a run.
"In our last two games we hit the ball hard at times," Zauhar said, "but we didn't catch that break where we needed to and have one sneak through. It was like we were snakebit out there."
Hannah Impola led Brainerd at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored.
The Warriors ran into another formidable pitcher in Fergus Falls' Erin Evavold, who gave up two runs while scattering six hits and walking three.
"Erin's consistent and she doesn't walk a lot of batters," Otters coach Renee Erickson said of Evavold. "I give Brainerd all the credit in the world. Mike runs the greatest team. They're so well respected and disciplined. It's very big to beat Brainerd."
The Warriors' 19 wins are a program record, one that Zauhar credits to his players.
"It's a testament to our seniors and to some of the younger players that came up and played very well in the heat of battle," said Zauhar. "They did a lot of nice things this year even though it doesn't seem like it right now."
Fergus Falls 001 040 0 -- 5 6 1
Brainerd 001 001 0 -- 2 6 1
Fergus Falls -- Erin Evavold and Julie Johnson. Brainerd -- Megan Arns and Erin Holznagel. WP -- Evavold. LP -- Arns.
2B -- FF-J. Johnson, Heather Barry; B-Hannah Impola. RBI -- FF-Katie Shalkoski, J. Johnson (2), Lindsey Gaustad; B-Alyssa Anderson, Abby Rehberger. Sac -- FF-Abby Barker, Evavold; B-A. Rehberger, Anderson. LOB -- FF 7, B 7.
Overall -- Brainerd finishes 19-5.
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