The Brainerd VFW played Monday like a lot of people feel on the day after the weekend.
A tad sluggish.
After dropping its first game Monday 9-8 to fifth-seeded Menahga, Brainerd, the No. 2 seed, regrouped and beat Staples 12-2 to split games on the first day of the North Sub-district 6 tournament at the Central Lakes College baseball field.
Brainerd will have to win two games today to advance in the tournament. Brainerd played Menahga, which lost to Sauk Rapids 4-3 in eight innings Monday, earlier today and if victorious will face the loser of the Sauk Rapids/St. Cloud Red (Apollo) game at 5 p.m. today at Adamson Field.
"Our biggest thing is we gotta be, as a team, in focus," VFW coach Joel Lofstrom said. "After a weekend we have a tendency to play like a Monday work day. We need to do a lot of the little things right."
If Brainerd does do those successfully and wins both games today, it will automatically be in the District 6 tournament. The top two teams from the South and the North Sub-districts advance to see who qualifies for the state tournament.
The team played like that is a possibility in the second game Monday, pounding out nine hits, picking up a solid pitching performance by Kevin Mertens, and winning the game in only five innings.
Mertens tossed all five innings, allowed two runs on two hits and struck out seven batters.
He picked up plenty of run support as his teammates scored three runs in each of the first two innings. Jason Goerges led off the game by getting hit by a pitch and later scored on a wild pitch. Joe Tautges smacked a double and scored on a Matt Bower sacrifice fly to center field and J.P. Platisha, who had reached on an error, scored when Chad Weiss hit a single to left field.
Tautges finished the game 2-for-2 with his position scoring four runs, while Bower went 2-for-2 with three RBI, Ben Winterfeld was 2-for-2 with three runs and Platisha finished 1-for-2 with two RBI.
In the first game, Brainerd built a 3-2 lead after a three-run third inning in which Goerges smacked an RBI triple to the left-center field gap. But after Brainerd pitching provided two wild pitches, a walk and four hits, Menahga was back up 7-3.
"We threw some wild pitches and they hit the ball well," Lofstrom said. "They strung together a bunch of hits. They just hit the ball over our heads."
After a three-run sixth inning, Brainerd was back within two runs. In the seventh Bower led off with a single and moved to second on a ground out. Weiss recorded the RBI single and he moved to second on a wild pitch and third on a ground out. But Dan Abear popped out to second base to end the game.
Platisha, Bower and Weiss all finished the first game with two hits, while Winterfeld recorded a two-RBI triple in the sixth inning.
Menahga 110 052 0 -- 9 12 6
Brainerd 003 013 1 -- 8 9 0
Menahga -- Pete Marjamau and Andy Baso; Brainerd -- Ben Winterfeld, Kevin Mertens (6) and Joe Tautges. WP -- Marjamau. LP -- Winterfeld. 3B -- Jason Goerges (B), Winterfeld (B), Dario Kako (M).
Staples 000 20 -- 2 2 2
Brainerd 332 4x -- 12 9 1
Staples -- Huebsh and Mosack; Brainerd -- Mertens and Tautges. WP -- Mertens. LP -- Huebsh. Overall -- B 16-13-1. Next game -- Brainerd vs. Menahga, noon today at Don Adamson Field. Brainerd vs Sauk Rapids/St. Cloud Red (Apollo) loser, 5 p.m. today at Adamson Field (if Brainerd wins first game).
VFW Sub-District 6 results
St. Cloud Red (Apollo) 11, Staples 0
Menahga 9, Brainerd 8
Sauk Rapids 9, Little Falls 7
Brainerd 12, Staples 2 (5 innings)
St. Cloud Red (Apollo) 9, Little Falls 6
Sauk Rapids 4, Menahga 3 (8 innings)
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