The Brainerd Legion baseball team is thanking its lucky stars that Monday night's game against Little Falls was nine innings instead of the usual seven.
Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, with the bases loaded and one out, Chris Klabo laced a single to left-center to score Mark Germain and Joey Tautges as Brainerd defeated Little Falls 6-5 at Adamson Field.
"We showed a lot of character coming back at the end," Brainerd coach Paul Jenkins said. "Little Falls played just super baseball and they made all the plays. I was a little disappointed that we weren't ready at the start of the game and we got behind. Luckily we played nine."
The game didn't start off superbly for Brainerd as Little Falls took advantage of two errors to score a pair of first-inning runs.
Little Falls leadoff hitter Mike Sobiech reached on an error and stole second. A balk by Brainerd starter Drew Boland put Sobiech on third and Noah Czech drove him in with a sacrifice fly. Mike Schwientek, who was 2-for-4, scored on a fielder's choice.
Little Falls pitcher Christian Larson baffled Brainerd hitters through six innings as he gave up only one hit.
Little Falls extended its lead to 4-0, scoring twice in the seventh on a squeeze bunt by Czech and an RBI double by Matt Wenz, who was 3-for-5.
Brainerd finally found its bats in the bottom of the seventh as Klabo, who was 2-for-5, led off with a single and scored on an error. Tautges walked with the bases loaded to score Aaron Jenkins and Chad Weiss singled in Kevin Mertens for the third run of the inning.
"I think our bats just woke up," Paul Jenkins said. "We're better hitters than what we showed. We did hit some hard balls that they just caught."
Little Falls added what should have been an insurance run as Sobiech scored from third base when Tautges' toss from behind the plate to Mertens on the mound sailed into center field.
That set up Brainerd's late-inning heroics. Back-to-back singles by Mertens and Brad Gangestad put runners on first and second with no outs. Tautges then singled to right to score Mertens.
Chad Weiss bunted pinch-runner Germain and Tautges into scoring position and Little Falls intentionally walked Boland to load the bases with Klabo coming to bat.
"Chris is a good bunter and I thought about squeezing him," Paul Jenkins said. "But I felt pretty confident with Chris up there and we had Fred Weiss behind him so I was just going to let them hit."
Klabo delivered the big hit to give Brainerd the comeback win. Mertens picked up the victory in relief of Boland, who, after a shaky first inning, settled down to pitch a solid game.
"Drew pitched super," Paul Jenkins said. "It was definitely the best game he's pitched for us. He should have been out of the first inning with no runs, but after that he settled down and pitched super."
Little Falls 200 000 210 -- 5 10 1
Brainerd 000 000 303 -- 6 8 3
Little Falls -- Christian Larson, Noah Czech (7) and Mike Sobiech. Brainerd -- Drew Boland, Kevin Mertens (8) and Morgan Shepherd. W -- Mertens. L -- Czech.
2B -- LF-Matt Wenz, Scott Fruenrich. SB -- LF-Sobiech; B-Fred Weiss, Mertens. Sac -- LF-Czech, Justin Welle; B-Chad Weiss. RBI -- LF-Czech 2, Wenz, Josh Gosiak; B-Chris Klabo 2, Aaron Jenkins, Joey Tautges 2. LOB -- LF-9, B-7.
Record -- B 9-3. Next game -- Brainerd at Bemidji 5:30 p.m. today (2).
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