No wonder the Alexandria Cardinals were celebrating in the dugout after beating the Brainerd Warriors 5-1 in the second game of the Section 8, Class 3A championship series Wednesday.
The win snapped a 21-game losing streak against the Warriors. The last time before Wednesday that Alexandria had beaten Brainerd was April 20, 1993.
Alexandria was a distinct underdog. It starts only one senior and two sophomores.
Cardinals coach Roger Johnson is cautiously optimistic about his team's chances to upend the defending state champion in today's decisive third game at Alexandria.
"Brainerd has such a deep pitching staff," Johnson said. "We will have to go markedly different than we have in the past. The two kids who pitched today have been our mainstays all year long so (today) will be a different day.
"We know they're coming back with Matt Means. He pitched well against us before. Again, they've been in this situation before. They've got the experience. They know what it's like. They've got 10 seniors on their roster. Those kids have been in the state tournament before. We will definitely have to strap it on and go after it."
So many things that could go wrong went wrong for the Warriors.
In the opener, Brainerd won despite two errors in the first inning that enabled Alexandria to grab a three-run edge. Later, two Warrior runners were picked off base. Twice, the Cardinals singled off the glove of pitcher Nick Weiland.
The first inning of the second game featured a rare umpire interference call.
With Brett Einerson on third, Scott Schmitt hit a ground ball to third that Brainerd's Matt Means fired to first for the second out. As Einerson tried to score he ran over the home plate umpire who was standing in the base line with his back to the play, ready to make a call.
After conferring, the umpires ruled umpire interference, and returned Einerson to third. He eventually was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a pitch to the backstop.
"If you have, for instance, a guy stealing second, and the catcher's arm hits the umpire, they can call umpire interference and send the guy back to first, and just pretend it never happened," Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said. "That's the interpretation they used, and I guess that was as fair a way as any."
With designated hitter Bob Brown out with a bad back, senior Billy Tadych replaced him. Tadych went 3-for-7 in the doubleheader with two RBI. Brown was doubtful for today's final game.
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