ST. CLOUD -- For the Brainerd Legion baseball team to advance in the District 6 playoffs, the team desperately needed solid starting pitching.
Brainerd coach Brett Streiff and his squad got just that Thursday night as it held on for a 7-6 victory over Cold Spring and an 8-5 triumph over the St. Cloud Chutes in the first day of district play at Joe Faber Field.
Brainerd will now face Waite Park at 5 p.m. today at Joe Faber Field in the winners' bracket. Nick Weiland, who is on nine days rest, will likely face the Silver Stars' Josh Krogman, the St. Cloud Apollo graduate who will pitch for the University of Minnesota next season.
Matt Means tossed seven innings and allowed five runs on nine hits (most of which came in the last inning) in the win over the Chutes and Adam Hardy led the win over Cold Spring by throwing five innings of shutout baseball. Means is now 7-1 this summer while Hardy improved to 7-0 with a 1.60 ERA.
"Those two pitched like they have all year," Streiff said. "We don't have the pitchers to battle through the loser's bracket. If we lose to Waite Park it will be hard.
"This is where we wanted to be. We just wanted to play well and if we did that, things would go the right way."
Pitching was the biggest question mark coming into the tournament for Streiff's squad.
Brainerd lost pitchers Matt Yde, Kevin Ericson and Eric Bolt off the Class AAA high school state baseball champions. And they've had Means, Hardy, Nathan Thomas, Weiland and others step up in their place. And no other time was it more needed than Thursday.
"We have confidence in our juniors," said Means, a soon-to-be senior at Brainerd High School. "The people we have now have gotten us a lot of wins and I think they can carry us a long way."
Means retired eight of the first 10 batters and cruised to an 8-2 lead through six innings. He hit a roadblock by allowing three runs on four hits in the sixth inning but finished off his game.
Streiff said he was tired, which was not surprising as he had to throw 1 1/3 innings in the game earlier in the day.
"Means came out here tough," Streiff said. "I didn't want to pitch him in the first game, but I wanted to save Hardy for tomorrow. We need to conserve as much pitching as possible."
Means didn't mind throwing double-duty at all.
"I'm used to it," Means said. "I need to throw a lot because we have a lot of pitchers with sore arms. In the first couple of innings, I had most of my pitches working. It always helps a lot when you have good defense."
That's something the St. Cloud Chutes cannot say. The Chutes committed six errors leading to numerous Brainerd runs.
But Brainerd's offense hit the ball hard. Ty Adams was 2-for-2 with two RBI and a run, Chris Macy was 2-for-5 with a run, Hardy was 2-for-3 with a run, and Tim Siekas was 2-for-3 with a run.
Brainerd 7, Cold Spring 6
Hardy's strong starting pitching and his teammates' timely hitting allowed Brainerd to hang on and beat Cold Spring 7-6 in the first game.
Hardy had some early help as his teammates scored five runs in the first two innings. Nick Weiland recorded a two-run single in the first inning and Rob Lien hammered a double to right-center field which scored three runs.
Hardy allowed six hits, struck out two and retired nine of 11 batters in the middle innings.
"I was hitting the corners really good and the ump was giving it to me," Hardy said. "Things just went really well out there."
But he was pulled after five innings and then a close-to-disaster happened. Streiff made some whole-sale changes and Cold Spring responded with six runs in the sixth inning.
Billy Tadych and Means threw the sixth, allowing four singles, walking two batters and hitting a batter. Cold Spring third baseman and clean-up hitter Rick Burtzel ended the inning with a two-on, two-out deep fly ball to center.
Brainerd 230 101 0 -- 7 9 0
Cold Spring 000 006 0 -- 6 11 1
Brainerd -- Adam Hardy, Billy Tadych (6), Matt Means (6) and Bob Brown. Cold Spring -- Rick Burtzel, Jason Schlangen (3) and Paul Schreiner. WP -- Hardy (7-0). LP -- Burtzel (9-2). S -- Means. 2B -- Rob Lien (B), Nick Weiland (B).
Brainerd 210 220 1 -- 8 12 2
St. Cloud Chutes 001 100 3 -- 5 9 6
Brainerd -- Matt Means and Kyle Berg. St. Cloud -- Nathan Williams and Brian Mathiason. WP -- Means. LP -- Williams. 2B -- Tony Dingman (SCC), Ty Adams (B). Overall -- B 25-7, SCC 27-9. Next -- Brainerd vs. Waite Park, 5 p.m. today at Dick Putz Field in the District 6 playoffs.
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