The Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers' Brad Mergen chose Friday to pitch his best game of the season and raise his record to 3-2.
Mergen, whose ERA was just 2.73 going into the game, scattered four hits in a 6-0 Lunkers victory over the Green Bay Bullfrogs, who stranded six runners and only had a runner as far as third twice.
Mergen's counterpart was Green Bay's Zach Varce, who owned the league's best ERA at 1.13 and the most strikeouts despite a 1-3 record.
Varce couldn't match Mergen.
"It feels great to know that I can stand with him and pitch," Mergen said. "He's a great pitcher and leading the league in strikeouts by far. When I can come in and do that it's great, but I had a heck of a defense behind me, too."
Lunkers 6, Green Bay 0
Key: Brad Mergen pitches a complete game shutout.
Overall: Brd 3-4, GB 3-4
Next: Green Bay vs. Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers, Mills Field 7:0 p.m. Saturday.
The Lunkers' Shon Roe singled through a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the eighth inning to score Hunter Nolen with the first run. Brainerd added five more runs in that inning to give Mergen a 6-0 lead to take into the ninth inning.
Having thrown 96 pitches in eight innings, he got the go-ahead from coach Ryan Levendoski to pitch the ninth.
The late innings had not been kind the previous two nights for the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers.
The Lunkers were swept by Alexandria in two games with the Beetles coming back in the later part of both games to beat Brainerd.
Add to it a top pitcher and Brainerd knew runs would be scarce. That meant situational hitting and defense would be keys. The first did not go so well until the later part of the game, but the defense was outstanding behind Mergen.
Catcher Hunter Nolen had a couple of key stops behind the plate. Mergen was threatened in the first inning as the Bullfrogs put two runners on base and in the fifth when Green Bay loaded the bases with one out. Mergen induced two fly outs to end the inning.
"Nolen has been doing a great job all season," said Mergen. "I think he has caught all but two of my games. He's been blocking my curveball and he knows my tendencies so he has been doing really good."
Brainerd's situational hitting came in the eighth.
Hunter Nolen opened the inning with a solid base hit to left field. Justin Gominski walked to bring up Roe. He delivered with a ground ball base hit to right field. Nate Hammes hit a ground ball to second base to score Gominski for a 2-0 lead. The Lunkers then chased Varce and scored four more runs in the inning.
"We were just going up there and trying to get a fast ball to hit because his off-speed pitch was pretty dirty," said Roe.
"Coach gave me the bunt sign in the beginning and told me that the corners were going to crash. He said to go ahead and slash it up the middle. The fielders did crash and I was able to do just that."
With the opportunity to complete the game, Mergen got the first two outs before loading the bases. He got Tony Jandron to fly out to Will Piwnica-Worms and preserve the win.
Green Bay 000 000 000 - 0 4 0
Brainerd 000 000 060 - 6 6 1
Green Bay: Zach Varce, Tony Jandron (8), and Chris Schaeffer.
Brainerd: Brad Mergen and Hunter Nolen
WP: Mergen. LP: Zach Varce.
2B: Brd-Stephen Wickens
RBIs: Brd-Wickens, Mike Kvasnicka, Michael Gedman, Shon Roe, Nate Hammes
LOB: Brd 2, GB 11
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