ST. CLOUD -- This time the outcome was a little different.
Avenging a loss in the all-important final winner's bracket game in the Region 8AAA high school playoffs, the Waite Park Silver Stars (i.e. St. Cloud Apollo) beat Brainerd 8-2 in the Distict 6 Legion playoffs Friday at Joe Faber Field.
Brainerd beat Apollo 2-1 in the same game this spring and used that easier road to advance to the Class 3A state tournament where the Warriors became state champions. This time the Silver Stars won and Brainerd would have to beat the St. Cloud Chutes/Little Falls winner and Waite Park twice on Saturday if it wanted to advance to the State Legion Tournament.
"We have to win three games as opposed to one and that's the biggest difference," Brainerd coach Brett Streiff said. "It's that important for anybody."
Apollo was the second-ranked team in Class 3A when it was ousted in the region tournament and the Silver Stars can boast one of the best records in the state for Legion teams. So losing to Brainerd in two straight tournaments was something Waite Park desperately wants to avoid.
"That was a monkey on our backs," Silver Stars winning pitcher Alex Pflepsen said. "We had played so well against them earlier in the spring and just lost a couple of games. It's good to get back on the winning track."
Nobody had more influence on Waite Park's revenge than Pflepsen. He tossed all seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out six and walking only one.
"I was working ahead of guys," Pflepsen said. "Then you can decide where you want to throw the ball instead of them telling you where to throw it.
"If you leave it over the plate, like I did in the third inning, then they're going to drive the ball into the gaps."
No Brainerd player had two hits. Rob Lien hit an RBI double in the third inning, Ty Adams had an RBI single in the third and Nathan Thomas, Adam Hardy, Nick Weiland and Chris Macy all recorded base hits. Brainerd had hit .308 with 29 home runs this summer.
"(Pflepsen) was really sharp today," Streiff said. "He threw both pitches over and he was hitting the corners. He pitched a good game and we were not on our 'A' game with the bats."
But Waite Park did have its 'A' game at the plate, pounding out nine hits, many of which were timely.
Chris Harrington and Ryan Lunderby each delivered two-out RBI hits as Waite Park built a 4-2 lead through four innings. Two more runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings off Brainerd starter Nick Weiland was too much for Brainerd to overcome.
As it did for Brainerd this spring, winning the game between the only undefeated squads helps the pitching staff immensely. Brainerd will now have to muster up pitching for a possible three games in one day, while Waite Park will probably throw University of Minnesota recruit Josh Krogman in the championship game.
"It's important to win because of the whole pitching situation," Pflepsen said. "It's a night and day difference. We now can come back and throw one of our better guys instead of throwing a guy who hasn't pitched much."
Waite Park 100 322 0 -- 8 9 2
Brainerd 002 000 0 -- 2 6 2
Waite Park -- Alex Pflepsen and Ryan Holthaus. Brainerd -- Nick Weiland and Kyle Berg. WP -- Pflepsen. LP -- Weiland (2-1). 2B -- Josh Krogman (WP), Rob Lien (B), Ryan Lunderby (2) (WP). Overall -- WP 31-9, B 24-9.
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