It took the Brainerd Blue Thunder five innings to finally get a hit, and even then that hit didn't even leave the infield.
No matter. A hit is a hit and the Blue Thunder came up with the biggest hits at the most crucial times, complimenting a defense that bent a little but never broke in beating the Battle Creek Bombers 5-1 Friday at Mills Field.
"We did make some big plays in the field at the right time," Brainerd manager Jason Huskey said. "It was pitching and defense once again and then try to string together some hits. Early on I like the team chemistry and so far these guys are picking each other up and staying in the game."
It took the Blue Thunder five innings to get their first hit of the game when they loaded the bases without the ball leaving the infield. Tyler Metcalf and Jared McDonald reached on infield hits and Mike Germain walked for the second time of the game to put Brainerd in business.
With the second and third basemen playing in, David Wilson made sure his single reached the outfield grass as he lined a pitch down the right field line to score Metcalf and McDonald for a 2-0 lead.
"Pitching put us in a good spot where we didn't have to do much offensively," said Metcalf. "We did put together some big hits and strung hits together to get some guys across the plate. (Richard) was a fastball guy and he was trying to get ahead early but we knew we had to stay with our same approach, get some pitches to hit and drive the ball into the gap."
Battle Creek cut Brainerd's lead in half when Nick Jowers and Jimmy Tanner singled with one out. Jowers scored one batter later when Brett Bivens hit into a fielder's choice, making the score 2-1.
Brainerd took out a little insurance with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when Adam Symons singled and Arin Fowble walked. Ryan Lipkin, Clay Cuno and Metcalf all followed with RBI singles for a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the ninth inning.
"We knew if we could get some insurance runs that would be big so the more the better," Metcalf said. "We strung some hits together and we were just looking at it as the more runs, the merrier."
The Blue Thunder dodged a number of bullets throughout the game with their defense coming up with big plays to bail them out. In the third inning the Bombers loaded the bases with one out. But Blue Thunder pitcher Kris Jiggitts got the next two batters out on a fly ball and a ground out to end the threat.
In the eighth Jowers led the inning off with a double and was sacrificed to third. With the tying run just 90 feet away, Symons, the shortstop, gobbled up a sharply hit grounder for the second out and catcher Ryan Lipkin grabbed a slow tapper and threw to first for the final out.
In the ninth Matt Hacker led off with a line drive down the left field line and was headed for second but the relay from Cuno in the outfield to Symons to McDonald at second was right on to nail Hacker.
"Our pitchers have come out two days in a row and pitched great and are doing their jobs," Symons said. "They're getting ground balls and as long as they keep doing that we'll make the plays. The guys have stepped up in the field."
Jiggitts tossed six solid innings, giving up one run on six hits while striking out four and walking two to pick up the win. Pitchers Tyler Brandon, Alex Guttosch and Brian Westphal all pitched an inning apiece and gave up one hit each in relief appearances.
Battle Creek 000 001 000 - 1 9 0
Brainerd 000 020 03x - 5 7 2
Battle Creek: Danny Richard, Drew Mahan (7) and Jimmy Tanner. Brainerd: Kris Jiggitts, Tyler Brandon (7), Alex Guttosch (8), Brian Westphal (9) and Ryan Lipkin. W: Jiggitts (1-0). L: Richard (0-1).
2B: BC-Nick Jowers. SB: Brd-David Wilson. Sac: BC-Mike Baillargeon 2, Tanner. RBI: Brd-David Wilson 2, Lipkin, Clay Cuno, Tyler Metcalf. LOB: Brd 5, BC 10. Time: 2:22.
TROY GUNDERSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5865.
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