ST. PAUL -- Eric Bolt was the Brainerd Warriors' second or third pitcher in the regular season and in the subsection and section playoffs.
On Friday night at Midway Stadium, Bolt pitched like he was the ace of the staff as he tossed a 1-hitter against Lakeville and pitched Brainerd to a 4-1 victory over the Panthers for the Class 3A state championship.
Bolt was brilliant. He retired the last 16 batters and didn't permit an earned run. He struck out five and walked none as he put the finishing touch on the Warriors' 25-5 season.
He faced just two batters over the minimum. Bolt retired six Panthers on fly balls and 11 on groundouts.
Warrior pitcher Eric Bolt (36) went the distance against the Lakeville Panthers.
"It was probably the most nervous I've been all year, probably because it was the championship game," Bolt said. "I had confidence in my team. That helps a lot."
Lakeville scored its only run in the second following two Warrior errors. With one out Ash Larsen connected for the only Lakeville hit, a single to right. Larsen advanced to third when Warriors first baseman Rob Lien mishandled a ground ball. Larsen scored when shortstop Kevin Ericson fielded Taj Peterson's ground ball but bounced the throw past Lien at first. Peterson was the last Panthers baserunner.
In the seventh Bolt retired Mark Berger on a fly to left, got John Arlt to ground out to second and struck out pinch-hitter Kalin Laurent to end the game.
"I'm on a high right now," Ericson said. "I don't know what to say. When Bolt struck the last guy out I made a mad dash for the middle."
Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy was hoping for a complete game from Bolt but was getting Nick Weiland and Matt Yde, who slammed the door on second-ranked Mounds View 4-0 in the semifinals Friday afternoon, warmed up just in case.
"Watching Eric on the mound when he starts taking his cap off that's kind of a sign he's getting a little bit tired," Scearcy said. "I think he took it off once the whole game. He was OK after that.
"He seemed to get stronger. He got his curveball in there. The first time through the order he threw mainly fastballs. Later on he was throwing his breaking ball. It was a carbon copy of the game that Matt pitched in the afternoon. He was throwing his breaking ball for strikes and he kept them off-balance."
Leading just 2-1 entering the fifth the Warriors struck for two insurance runs. With two out Nathan Thomas singled off the glove of the second baseman. Ericson followed with a single that sent Thomas to third. Chris Macy then delivered a 2-run single to left.
The Warriors opened the scoring in the first. With one out Thomas walked and Ericson, the only Warrior with two hits, doubled to right. Thomas scored on Macy's fielder's choice.
The championship was the Warriors' second in six years. It was Brainerd's fifth state appearance in seven years.
"Like I said about 10 times this year there's not a better way to end the season," Yde said.
Brainerd 101 020 0 -- 4 6 2
Lakeville 010 000 x --1 1 2
Lakeville -- Chris Gonzales, Justin Ancel (6) and Adam VanGrinsven. Brainerd -- Eric Bolt and Kyle Berg. W -- Bolt (4-1). L -- Gonzales (4-3).
E -- B, Kevin Ericson, Rob Lien; L, Vangrinsven. DP -- Lakeville. LOB --B 5, L 1. 2B -- B, Ericson. SB -- Ericson. CS -- B, Mike Zauhar. Time -- 1:37. Attendance --759. Records -- B 25-5, L 18-12.
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