Crunch time is officially on.
That's what the Brainerd Mighty Gulls were faced with as they entered Monday night's Northwoods League game against the Rochester Honkers.
Deadlocked with the Mankato Moondogs atop the North Division, with two games left in the first half, Brainerd needed a victory to keep its playoff hopes alive. Not only did Brainerd win, it trounced the Honkers 16-2.
Add that to Mankato's 8-3 loss to Madison Monday and the Mighty Gulls are sitting all alone in first place with a one-game lead and one game left in the first half.
"It doesn't matter what Mankato does if we don't win," Brainerd coach Kyle Crookes said. "We can only control what we can control and let fate take care of everything else."
Fate was definitely on the Mighty Gulls' side Monday, The Gulls received superior pitching and timely hitting that ground out 15 hits.
Brainerd starting pitcher Bryan Beck was superb. He gave up only one run on one hit in six innings while striking out four and walking three as he picked up his first win.
Unfortunately, those three walks all came in the first inning as Beck loaded the bases with three consecutive walks. Rochester's Ben Thomas hit a sacrifice fly to score Jeff Corsaletti from third and gave the Honkers a 1-0 lead.
"Bryan's a young freshman and I think the situation overcame him a little bit," Crookes said. "He knew we were playing with something on the line and he tried to do too much. After he settled down he was OK."
Beck settled down to allow one baserunner through the next five innings. At one point he retired 14 straight.
Meanwhile, Mighty Gulls hitters jumped all over Honkers starter Dave O'Hagen. After scoring two runs in the bottom of the first and one more in the second, first baseman Ryan Finan launched a two-out, two-run homer over the right-field wall for a 5-1 Brainerd lead.
Finan, who finished 4-for-5 with two runs and three RBI, worked out a few kinks in the batting cage before the game.
"I was just seeing the ball real well (Monday)," Finan said. "I worked on a couple of things with (Crookes) before the game. Obviously, I fixed something and it's working so hopefully I can keep it going."
The Mighty Gulls broke the game open in the fourth as they took advantage of three Rochester errors to score four more runs for a 9-1 lead.
Brainerd added injury to insult in the seventh as right fielder Daniel Bruce started a string of seven consecutive hits that resulted in six Mighty Gulls runs.
Brainerd catcher Ben Vannatter was 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI while third baseman Tyson Hanish was 2-for-5 with one run and one RBI.
With one more win against Rochester, the Mighty Gulls will clinch a spot in the playoffs. That's easier said than done but the Gulls know what they need to do. "We're just thinking to have a good outing," Finan said. "We just need to play good defense and hopefully our bats can keep going like they have been lately. We really want to wrap this thing up."
Notes: Tiffany Gardenhire, daughter of the Twins manager, won the $65 raffle drawing.
Rochester 100 000 001 -- 2 3 5
Brainerd 212 400 61x -- 16 15 1
Rochester -- Dave O'Hagen, Kevin Melcher (6), Brandon Bingham (8) and Joel Bocchi. Brainerd -- Bryan Beck, Jason Schlangen (7), Trevor Berryhill (8), Sam Deluca (9) and Ben Vannatter. W -- Beck. L -- O'Hagen.
2B -- B-Ronnie Seets, Omar Rivero. HR -- B-Ryan Finan. SB -- B-Steve Adams. Sac -- B-Blake Denischuck, John Purdom; R-Ben Thomas. RBI -- B-Purdom, Seets 2, Finan 3, Ryan McCarthy, Josh O'Dell, Vannatter, Tyson Hanish; R-Thomas, Robby Reed. LOB -- B-4; R-6. DP -- B-1; R-2. Time -- 2:40. Attendance -- 636. Records -- B 17-13, R 17-14. Next game -- Brainerd hosts Rochester 7:05 p.m. today at Mills Field.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.