Two plays in Wednesday's North Subsection 8-3A tournament game against the Moorhead Spuds epitomized the Brainerd Warriors' luck.
In the sixth, the Warriors' Thomas Fairbanks hit a screamer off Moorhead pitcher Jake Bernhardt. But the ball deflected right to second baseman Brooks Miller, who threw out Fairbanks.
In the top of the seventh Warriors reliever Dan Bendzick hit Moorhead's Joe Pietrick with a pitch, but the plate umpire ruled Pietrick didn't make an effort to get out of the way and sent him back to bat. Bendzick hit Pietrick on the next pitch, only this time he was awarded first base.
Not many bounces went the way of the top-seeded Warriors as they were eliminated by an 8-3 loss to No. 3 Moorhead at Adamson Field.
Moorhead 8, Warriors 3
The key: The Spuds scored five runs in the top of the sixth to snap a 3-3 tie.
Overall: Brainerd finishes 17-6.
Championship game: Alexandria 5, Moorhead 4
Moorhead snapped a 3-3 tie with a five-run sixth. The Warriors left eight runners on base, five in scoring position, including the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.
"We just kind of struggled getting runs when we had to," Warriors catcher Nate Smolke said of the season. "We all had a good season. It wasn't one guy that didn't have a very good season, we just couldn't come up (with runs) when we needed to."
It was the second straight year Brainerd was the top seed but exited the subsection after only three games.
"We had a good season," Warriors first baseman Tate Rusk said. "Every year it just seems we get nervous before playoffs start. We tried to calm ourselves down today. We said we've just got to relax and play the game, but what can you do?
"They hit the ball pretty well. We didn't have any errors really, maybe that one in the outfield, otherwise we played overall pretty well. It's just that our bats were not so hot as they usually are."
Bernhardt limited the Warriors to six hits, four by shortstop Kyle Crocker, who hit a solo home run in the third and rapped three singles.
The senior right-hander walked two and struck out two and tormented Brainerd with his curveball. Bernhardt gave up two earned runs and won despite hitting three batters and throwing two wild pitches.
"He's been our No. 2 guy all year," Spuds coach Greg Salvevold said. "It's just that late in the year he's kind of given up some runs, but we have confidence in him where he can go out there and do what he did today. He threw strikes. That's all you can ask of a pitcher, and hopefully good things happen."
Good things happened in the Moorhead sixth, which included consecutive RBI singles by John Cahill and Scott Petry, a hit batter with the bases loaded and a two-run single by Bernhardt.
Kyle Kraemer's three-run homer to right in the third staked the Spuds to a 3-0 lead.
Joel Martin's RBI single in the third closed the Warriors' deficit to 3-2.
Cody Stange's groundout in the Brainerd fifth tied the game 3-3.
Trevor Howard started for Brainerd and went 5.1 respectable innings. He allowed five earned runs and four hits, walked two and struck out two.
"Trevor threw very well today," said Smolke, who plans to play at Bemidji State next season. "His fastball seems to tail a little bit. That was helping him, and he had good control."
Moorhead 003 005 0 - 8 7 2
Brainerd 002 010 0 - 3 6 1
Moor: Jake Bernhardt and John Cahill. Brd: Trevor Howard, Brett Jenkins (6), Dan Bendzick (6) and Nate Smolke. W: Bernhardt. L: Howard (1-1).
HR: Kyle Kraemer (M), Kyle Crocker (B). SB: Crocker. RBIs: Kraemer 3, Crocker, Joel Martin (B), Cody Stange (B), Cahill, Scott Petry, (M), Chance Bitzer (M), Bernhardt 2. LOB: Brd 8, Moor 4.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 855-5861.
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