The Brainerd Mighty Gulls finally caught a break with two out and two on in the bottom of the ninth Sunday night.
But the Mankato Moondogs caught the last break on the same play to quash Brainerd's rally and hold on for a 4-3 win at Mills Field.
Trailing 4-3 with runners on first and second, Brainerd second baseman Tyson Hanish hit a slow roller to Mankato shortstop Chandler Rose. The throw to first pulled Tom Everidge off the bag and allowed Hanish to reach safely. Gulls shortstop Omar Rivero rounded third and headed for home, but Everidge made a perfect throw to catcher Roger Cook to end the game.
"I guess that's part of my small-ball mentality," Brainerd head coach Kyle Crookes said. "I'm going to do that every time and force them to make a good defensive play, especially when a lot of chaos occurs. I'll do that every time. Omar read my mind and I was sending him the whole way. He didn't break stride and I'd do it again."
Brainerd left fielder/pitcher Steve Adams, who was 2-for-3 with two walks, singled prior to the play.
"I was just trying to beat it out to second (on the final play) to make them have a long throw and he threw it away," Adams said. "You have to send the guy on that because there are all kinds of things that can happen. He can drop the ball, he can throw it away and that's our tying run. Make them make the plays."
Both teams entered the game sporting 2-0 records. The Gulls outhit the Moondogs 10-9.
Brainerd scored its run in the ninth when Tim Gray's sacrifice fly plated Ryan Finan, who had doubled to lead off the inning. The Gulls' other two runs came in the third inning with two out to knot the score at 2-2. Hanish, who finished 3-for-5, drove in the first run with a double. Blake Denischuk followed with a single to score the second.
Omar Rivero went 2-for-4 for Brainerd.
Mankato touched Brainerd starter Devin Thomas for two unearned runs in the second inning thanks to a Brainerd error. Back-to-back singles by Ben Pattee and Bobby Gilliam pushed both across.
Moondog Donnell Boyer's double in the fourth inning drove in another run to make it 3-2. Boyer was at it again in the sixth when his single scored the game-winning run.
"The breaks didn't necessarily go our way," Crookes said. "There were a couple of balls that weren't hit too hard that scored runs for them. I think we could have had a strike three called that makes it a 3-2 game, not a 4-2 game.
"Our guys came back and they battled hard. They put us in a position to win. I'm proud of their effort. Obviously we came up a little short and there's some things we still need to work on. But I'm happy with the effort the guys put in and the never-say-die attitude they had."
Thomas took the loss for Brainerd. He pitched four innings, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks. Damon White pitched three solid innings of relief, yielding a run on two hits. Chris Goodman and Adams each tossed a scoreless inning.
Jason Conrad picked up the win. He went five innings, giving up two runs on three hits and two walks while fanning six. Jeff Spicer got the save by pitching the final two-thirds of an inning.
Adams expects the Gulls to be in every game.
"I think that our team has a lot of character and we showed that in the last inning," he said. "We'll be in every game and we're going to win some games this year."
Notes: The Mighty Gulls embark on a seven-game road trip that will take them to Alexandria for a game tonight at 7:05. Brainerd will then face Waterloo, Madison and Wisconsin for two games apiece before returning home June 17 for a three-game series against Mankato.
Mankato 020 101 000 -- 4 9 1
Brainerd 002 000 001 -- 3 10 1
Mankato -- Jason Conrad, Jeremy Hall (6), Jeff Spicer (9) and Roger Cook. Brainerd -- Devin Thomas, Damon White (5), Chris Goodman (8), Steve Adams (9) and John Purdom. W -- Conrad (1-0). L -- Thomas (0-1). S -- Spicer (1).
DP -- Mankato. LOB -- Mankato 10, Brainerd 8. 2B -- Donnell Boyer (3), Tyson Hanish (3), Finan (3). SH -- Hanish. SF -- Gray (3). SB -- Pattee (3). CS -- Boyer (3), Chandler Rose (3), Adams (3). Attendance-1,038.
Gulls sweep River Bats
The Mighty Gulls erupted for five runs in the seventh inning to defeat the St. Cloud River Bats 8-2 Saturday night at Mills Field.
All but one Brainerd player recorded a hit. Six Gulls had two hits apiece.
Trevor Berryhill picked up the win for Brainerd. He pitched six scoreless innings, yielding just three hits and two walks while fanning six. Dustin Braud pitched a scoreless ninth for the Gulls.
St. Cloud 000 000 020 -- 2 6 4
Brainerd 000 010 52x -- 8 14 2
St. Cloud -- Dustin Glant, Matt Petrusek (5), Thomas Diamond (7), David Sharfstein (8) and Jason Jaramillo. Brainerd -- Trevor Berryhill, Ryan Hamilton (7), Dustin Braud (9) and Ben Vannatter. W -- Berryhill (1-0). L-Glant (0-1).
DP -- Brainerd. LOB -- St. Cloud 9, Brainerd 10. 2B -- Dustin Atkinson (2), Hanish 2 (2). SH -- Ronnie Seets (2), Ryan Finan (2). SF -- Atkinson (2). SB -- Seets (2), Hanish (2). CS -- Joe Pietro (2), Wes Long (2), Seets (2), Denischuk (2). Attendance-773.
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