The temperature in the lakes area skyrocketed to 94 degrees Tuesday afternoon with a heat index of 106.
At Mills Field Tuesday night, the Waterloo Bucks continued to make the Brainerd Mighty Gulls sweat out the second half of the season. Waterloo rallied from a 3-0 deficit to pin a 4-3 Northwoods League loss on the Mighty Gulls.
It was Brainerd's ninth loss in 11 games. The Gulls, who play their final home game of the regular season tonight, dipped to 5-18 in the second half after winning the first-half championship.
Breaks continued to go against the Gulls as Waterloo scored once in the top of the ninth for the win.
Gulls reliever Hiroto Akaike hit Andy Schutzenhofer with a pitch to open the inning. Matt Yourkin bunted Schutzenhofer to second. After Frank Kunich struck out, Akaike intentionally walked Greg Mathis to set up a force play.
Brainerd manager Dave Parra's strategy backfired when the Bucks' Tim Gradoville blooped a single to center. Schutzenhofer narrowly beat center fielder T.J. Bohn's throw to the plate.
"That's been the story of the last couple weeks," Parra said. "We played well. It was an improvement from what we've been doing, but it's time now that we need to start getting it done. We're a week away from the playoffs. Playing well just isn't going to do it. We've got to get wins."
The Gulls threatened to win it in the bottom of the ninth. With two out, Jeremy Isenhower singled and Bohn reached on an error. Bucks reliever Mike Egger struck out Niko Bouzos to preserve his fourth win in as many decisions.
The Mighty Gulls appeared on their way to a scarce second-half win as they built a three-run lead after three innings. In the first, Isenhower delivered a sacrifice fly and Niko Bouzos a run-scoring single. Bohn delivered an RBI single in the third.
Unlike many of their second-half losses, the Gulls played respectably in the field Tuesday. Several Gulls turned in defensive gems. Bohn made two suitable for ESPN SportsCenter in the fifth with back-handed and over-the-shoulder grabs. In the sixth, Isenhower make a cartwheel catch of a blooper moments before colliding with shortstop Spencer Doyle.
"What we threw out there tonight is a very good defensive lineup," Parra said. "The two errors they gave us I felt weren't even errors.
"We don't seem to come up with timely hitting. We went up 3-0 and could have went for a dagger but didn't."
Third baseman Bryce Palar was 3-for-5 with two runs to lead the Gulls, who collected nine hits but left 11 runners on base, five in scoring position.
Right-hander Lincoln Mincks pitched six-plus respectable innings but didn't figure in the decision. He gave up eight hits and three earned runs, walked two and struck out four.
Mincks ran into trouble in the fourth when he surrendered a solo home run to left by Jason Waugh and a sacrifice fly by Kunich. In the fifth, Andy Schutzenhofer drilled a game-tying RBI double into the right-field corner.
"Lincoln gave us another quality start on the bump," Parra said. "He did an excellent job. We just can't score for him. Lincoln will throw the first game of the playoffs for us. He's been that kind of pitcher for us. We have to find a way to squeeze out some runs."
Brainerd will host either St. Cloud or Mankato in Game 2 of the division playoffs Thursday, Aug. 9.
Waterloo 000 210 001 -- 4 10 2
Brainerd 201 000 000 -- 3 9 2
Waterloo -- Chad Mulholland, Mike Egger (7) and Tim Gradoville. Brainerd -- Lincoln Mincks, Gordon Dugan (7), Hiroto Akaike (7), Tim Gorski (9) and Greg Blaesing. W -- Egger (4-0). L -- Akaike (0-2).
E -- Frank Kunich (W), Scott Allen (W), Bryce Palar (B), Spencer Doyle (B). 2B -- Andy Schutzenhofer (W), Palar 2. HR -- Jason Waugh (W). SB -- Chad Frk (W), Gradoville, Allen, Palar . Sac -- Matt Yourkin (W), Jeremy Isenhower (B) 2, Kunich. RBI -- Waugh, Schutzenhofer, Kunich, Gradoville, Isenhower, Bohn, Niko Bouzos (B). LOB -- W 14, B 11. DP -- B 1.
Attendance -- 669 paid (519 actual). Second-half records -- W 13-12, B 5-18. Next game -- Waterloo at Brainerd 7:05 p.m. Wednesday.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.