Through three innings Monday the outlook was grim for the top-seeded Brainerd Warriors in the third round of the South Subsection 8, Class 3A baseball tournament at Adamson Field.
The Warriors were laboring against the fourth-seeded Rocori Spartans. In the second, Brainerd had a runner picked off first base and another thrown out trying to steal second. In addition, the Warriors committed three of their four errors in the first three innings and trailed 2-1.
A four-run fourth cured what ailed the Warriors as they hung on to eliminate Rocori 5-3.
Brainerd and Sauk Rapids are the only unbeaten teams in the double-elimination event. They meet 11 a.m. Wednesday at Adamson.
"Teams that win tournaments usually are teams that work hard to get there," Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said. "When it's all done, even though it's nerve-wracking, we might have learned more from winning a game like this than we would have if we had won the game by the 10-run rule."
Left fielder Dan Kirkpatrick and shortstop Mike Zauhar were among the players who enabled Brainerd to rule. Kirkpatrick's double off the fence to left-center in the third seemed to ignite the Warriors. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Zauhar's sacrifice fly.
Kirkpatrick's RBI double in the fourth enabled the Warriors to tie it 2-2. Zauhar followed with a two-run single to center and catcher Joey Tautges added a run-scoring double to put Brainerd ahead 5-2.
Kirkpatrick finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
"They were giving me fastballs," Kirkpatrick said. "They were just pipe shots. It doesn't take much to hit those.
"I've been swinging the bat better than usual lately. I got out of my slump. I'm just feeling good right now."
Zauhar connected for his sacrifice fly against Rocori left-hander Josh Porwoll, the second of three Spartans pitchers. His two-run single was against Darren Stommes, another lefty.
"I wanted to get a runner in somehow, just get the bat on the ball," Zauhar said of his sacrifice fly.
Of his two-run single, Zauhar said, "I've been struggling with lefties a little bit. He hung a curve, I sat back on it, and punched it through the infield."
Rocori punched in two runs in the top of the third against Warrior starter and winner Matt Means. With one out, Rocori's Mike Ficker singled and Porwoll followed with a single. Means balked both runners into scoring position. Dan Wehlage grounded out to score Ficker. Tim Voigt's single to left scored Porwoll.
The Spartans added their final run in the fifth when Gary Kiess' groundout scored Voigt, who reached on a fielder's choice.
Means lasted six innings, leaving after issuing a leadoff walk in the seventh to Wehlage. Means struck out three, walked four and gave up seven hits and two earned runs. It was his first appearance in 13 days.
"I think that showed in his control," Scearcy said. "He walked four. That's quite a few for him. It's not the walks, it's the counts. He had a lot of 3-2 counts, 3-1 counts. When that happens you're going to give up some hits. That was a sign Matt hadn't pitched for a while. He had been pretty sharp the last couple times out."
Adam Hardy earned a save by retiring all three Spartans he faced.
Rocori 002 010 0 -- 3 7 1
Brainerd 001 400 x -- 5 7 4
Rocori -- Jake Theis, Josh Porwoll (3), Darren Stommes (4) and Ryan Fischer; Brainerd -- Matt Means, Adam Hardy (7) and Joey Tautges. W -- Means. L -- Theis.
2B -- Roc, Ryan Fischer; Brd, Tautges, Tim Siekas, Dan Kirkpatrick 2. SB -- Roc, Porwoll. Sac -- Brd, Zauhar. RBI -- Roc, Dan Wehlage, Tim Voigt, Gary Kiess; Brd, Zauhar 3, Tautges, Kirkpatrick. LOB -- Roc 10, Brd 5. DP -- Roc 2, Brd 1.
Overall -- B 18-3. Next game -- Sauk Rapids at Brainerd 11 a.m. Wednesday, Adamson Field.
Brainerd 16, Little Falls 5
Right fielder J.P. Platisha hit a three-run, walk-off homer in the fifth as the top-seeded Brainerd Warriors rolled past the No. 7 Little Falls Flyers 16-5 Saturday in the second round of the South Subsection 8, Class 3A baseball tournament at Adamson Field.
Brainerd's Joey Tautges was 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Tim Siekas, Adam Hardy and Platisha each had two hits. Hardy had an RBI double in the second and Matt Dickinson an RBI double in the fourth. Bob Brown had three RBI for the Warriors.
Left fielder Pat Krebs hit a three-run homer in the Little Falls fifth. He was the only Flyer with two hits.
Warrior starter Nick Weiland picked up the win. He struck out five, walked one and permitted one earned run and three hits in three innings. Ben Winterfeld pitched the last two innings, striking out two, walking none, giving up one hit and no earned runs.
Little Falls 001 03 -- 4 3 0
Brainerd 426 00 -- 16 15 1
Little Falls -- Noah Czech, Christian Larson (2), Mike Darmante (3) and Mike Sobiech; Brainerd -- Nick Weiland, Ben Winterfeld (4) and Joey Tautges. W -- Weiland. L -- Czech.
2B -- Brd, Dickinson, Hardy. HR -- Brd, Platisha; LF, Krebs.
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