ST. CLOUD -- One of the attributes of a championship baseball team is how it responds following a disappointing defeat.
The second-seeded Brainerd Warriors dropped the first game of the South Subsection 8, Class 3A final series against the top-seeded St. Cloud Apollo Eagles 4-3 Saturday at Putz Field.
Brainerd didn't sulk for long. In the second game the Warriors collected 12 hits and rode the relief pitching of Kevin Ericson to a 7-4 win to capture the subsection championship.
"We knew this was our day, whether it was the first game or the second game, this was our day," said Ericson, who threw 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. "We were going to win it in the first game or the second game for sure."
Hitters like Tim Siekas, Kyle Berg, Chris Macy and Ty Adams made sure it was the Warriors' day. In the second game Siekas was 3-for-3 and Berg, Macy and Adams each had two hits.
In Saturday's doubleheader Siekas was 5-for-6 with a double, walk and three RBI. Macy was 5-for-8 with a stolen base, a run, a double and a walk.
Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy was more troubled by the weather than how his team would respond to the loss. Most of the first game was played in a steady drizzle and the sky appeared capable of unleashing a downpour at any minute during the day.
"We had word a storm was coming," Scearcy said. "In tournament play if there's a suspended game what happens is if one team scores five runs in the first inning and it gets rained out they get to keep those five runs. Everyone was concerned about that -- the umpires, the coaches, but it turned out all right."
Brainerd 7, Apollo 4
In the top of the sixth, with Brainerd clinging to a 5-4 lead, Siekas pulled a 2-run double into the left-corner that virtually assured a victory.
"It was a perfect pitch," Siekas said. "I just wanted to hit it on the ground."
The Warriors scored an unearned run in the first and added four runs in the third. Nick Weiland and Rob Lien delivered RBI singles in the fourth and Mike Zauhar and Siekas drew bases-loaded walks to force two more runs.
"We missed a couple chances to score but we came through with some big hits, especially the one by Siekas, that was really big," Scearcy said. "A one-run lead isn't very significant against as good a team as they are. I still think they are one of the better teams I have ever seen in our conference.
"Sometimes it's not who you play but when you play them. For us this just happened to be the right time."
The time was right for Scearcy to bring in Ericson. Apollo had scored two runs off starter Eric Bolt when Scearcy summoned Ericson to the mound with two out.
Pitching on 48 hours rest Ericson struck out five, walked three and gave up three hits. He capped the victory with three consecutive strikeouts in the seventh.
"I felt pretty good but I don't know if I had quite as much as the last time," Ericson said. "I wanted to challenge the hitters. I don't like throwing around people."
Ericson's only start this season was a 2-0 masterpiece win against Apollo on Wednesday.
"Kevin hasn't pitched a whole lot, mainly because he had a little bit of arm trouble," Scearcy said. "We were hoping he had a few innings left.
"We planned to go with him but we wanted to get as many innings out of Eric as we could. I don't know if Eric could have gotten us another inning or not. That's why we chose that time to bring Kevin in. Outside of that base hit (by the first batter Ericson faced) they didn't get much off him.
"Sometimes certain pitchers have an advantage over certain teams. The last few days Kevin seemed to have that over the Apollo kids, as Josh Krogman had over us for years."
Apollo 4, Warriors 3
Apollo won it in the bottom of the seventh as Chris Harrington lined a run-scoring double to right-center. Harrington finished 3-for-4 with three doubles.
Harrington's hit made a winner out of Krogman who, like Ericson, put on a gritty performance just 48 hours after pitching a complete game. Krogman yielded eight hits, three earned runs, walked four and struck out six.
"As we were contemplating how we could get back through this (tournament) Josh came to me Friday and told me he wanted to get at it," Apollo coach Tom Frericks said. "When you get a kid like that who wants to get out there you are excited as a coach."
Brainerd seized a 2-0 lead when Krogman issued bases-loaded walks to Berg and Nathan Thomas. Lien delivered a run-scoring double in the third.
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