The Brainerd Warriors baseball team showed it could play with any Twin Cities team last weekend as they claimed the Class 3A state title.
This weekend, two Warriors -- Kevin Ericson and Kyle Berg -- will attempt to prove it once again.
Ericson and Berg will represent Brainerd and play for the Northern team in the 26th Annual Lions High School All-Star Baseball Tournament at Chaska Athletic Park. There is a Northern team, a Southern team, a Metro West squad and a Metro East team.
"We want to show the Cities boys how to play," Berg said. "It's always nice to do it twice."
The tournament will be round-robin format as each team plays twice Friday and once Saturday. The festivities begin Thursday with a banquet and team practice.
Joining Berg and Ericson on the North team will be Jon Czech of Little Falls and Brainerd assistant coach Keith Peterson.
"It's an honor because just a few people get to do it," Ericson said. "You get to represent the team and the town."
Berg, the Warriors catcher and leadoff hitter, led the team in home runs (9), slugging percentage (.536) and walks (17); was second in batting average (.433), hits (39) and stolen bases (8), and was third in RBI (23) and runs (26).
Ericson, a shortstop, paced the Warriors in runs (29) and RBI (25); was second in home runs (5), stolen bases (8) and walks (16), and also batted .352 and finished with a slugging percentage of .473.
Ericson also was strong on the mound for the Warriors, posting a 6-0 record with a 1.36 ERA in just under 26 innings. Opponents batted a slim .198 against him.
"We just want to go down there, have a good time, and help the North team win," Ericson said.
And they will have talented company on their squad. Czech, a first and third baseman, was a powerhouse on a very young Flyers team. Also, three members of Brainerd's rival St. Cloud Apollo -- Josh Krogman, Adam Waldorf and Ryan Holthaus -- and Marc Craigmile, a right-handed pitcher from Alexandria, will represent the Central Lakes Conference.
"We will get more experience and meet some good players," Berg said. "Maybe I'll get some autographs just in case some of the guys go pro."
The next step for Berg and Ericson will not be pro but will be top-flight college ball. Ericson, who will room with Krogman next season, will be attending the University of Minnesota on scholarship. Berg is undecided on a college but said he will play baseball.
This will not be the first time in an all-star setting for either player, who are playing for the Brainerd Bees and the Brainerd Legion this summer. Both Ericson and Berg, who are each three-year starters for the Warriors, tried out at various professional camps. Ericson also played with Krogman and Holthaus on an all-star Minnesota team in the fall playing various teams from Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois among other areas in the Midwest.
But this weekend it will be 80 of the best players in Minnesota. There will be scouts from professional teams as well as college teams. Seventeen tournament alumni have gone on to major league careers, including Terry Steinbach, Kent Hrbek, Tim Laudner and Jim Eisenreich.
"There will be a lot of good players and we'll see some great pitchers," Berg said. "It's going to be fun and just relaxing and we'll play some good baseball."
The event will benefit the University of Minnesota's Lions Children's Eye Clinic. In the past 25 years, the tournament has raised over $165,000.
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