The improving Rocori Spartans will be the Brainerd Warriors opponent in the Section 8, Class 3A baseball championship series which opens Tuesday at Cold Spring.
Rocori (16-7), the No. 2 seed in the South Subsection, won four straight games to claim the title. It beat St. Cloud Tech 3-1, Sartell 13-3 and top-seeded Monticello 15-3 and 6-5. Monticello was the fourth-ranked team in the state.
"To get through the South half, and to beat Monticello, which was rated in the state, they must be playing real well," Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said of Rocori.
"I'm sure they've got their pitching staff rested just about where they want them to be," Scearcy added. "We'll have to try to get through the first day and make sure we're still playing come the second day (Thursday)."
Brainerd (24-2) used four pitchers Saturday in defeating Bemidji twice for the North title.
The Warriors, ranked third in the state, defeated Rocori 10-6 and 4-1 in the regular season.
On April 10 at Brainerd, the Warriors built a 5-0 lead but the Spartans stormed back to tie it 5-5 in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, Brainerd scored five times for the victory.
Rocori's comeback was aided by five Warrior errors.
Brainerd's Chad Weiss went 3-for-3 with three runs, two doubles and one RBI. Drew Boland was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBI and Aaron Jenkins was 2-for-4 with one RBI.
Boland, in his only start of the regular season because of an arm injury, lasted four innings. Kevin Mertens, now out for the season with a broken bone in his pitching hand, went three innings to get the win.
On May 20, Brainerd finished the regular season with a victory at Cold Spring. Weiss pitched a five-hitter and didn't give up an earned run.
Boland had two of Brainerd's seven hits and drove in a run. Jason Sather, Andy Pickar and Tony Parrish had RBI singles.
Rocori seized a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Brainerd rallied to score once in the fifth, twice in the sixth and once in the seventh.
"I think all we need to do is just play hard the whole game and we'll be fine, no errors, no walks, and we'll be fine," Warriors outfielder Chris Klabo said of the section series.
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