After dropping their last three games by a combined total of four runs, the Brainerd Mighty Gulls were going to claw and fight for every run they could get against the Wisconsin Woodchucks Wednesday night at Mills Field.
When they jumped out 6-2 after the fourth inning by playing small ball, Gulls head coach Kyle Crookes opened the floodgates as Brainerd recorded an 11-2 victory, snapping a three-game skid.
"We've been able to play a lot of small ball all year, bunting guys over and not even needing to get a hit to get runs in," Brainerd third baseman Tyson Hanish said. "After we started to move guys over and drive guys in with ground balls and bunts, we could start swinging a little bit and the hits came on."
Hanish led the Gulls by going 3-for-4 with three RBI. One of his RBI singles came on a perfectly placed bunt.
"I was seeing the ball well," Hanish said. "I've played a lot of small ball myself all year. Bunts kind of get you started. After that, I just got good pitches to hit and put good swings on them."
Damon White picked up the win for Brainerd. He gave up two runs through 6 1/3 innings on six hits and two walks while striking out four. Zach Sanchez, a new addition to the team, threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings and Jason Schlangen threw a hitless ninth.
"(Sanchez) is kind of a slump-maker," Crookes said. "He makes people look stupid."
Brainerd scored in the second through sixth innings to take a commanding lead. Hanish hit a bunt single in the second to score one run and another came home on an error.
Ben Vannatter's RBI single added another run in the third.
Blake Denischuk's sacrifice fly in the fourth scored one while league RBI leader John Purdom doubled to score another. Purdom made it home from second on a wild pitch to plate the third run of the inning.
"We broke out of our slump of getting runners in," Crookes said. "I think 'Shaker' (Denischuk) hit a sac fly and that's the first time we've scored somebody from third with less than two outs in a while."
Ryan McCarthy's RBI single in the fifth scored Ben Vannatter, who had doubled to lead off the inning.
Vannatter, who finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs, hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to score one run while a second came home on an error. Hanish then tripled to score two more.
Wisconsin scored its first run on an error and its second run on Dave Pudlosky's single.
Crookes was impressed with the Gulls' explosion, considering it was against the Wisconsin pitching staff. Woodchuck pitchers have the best ERA in the league (2.48). They also have the third-most strikeouts.
"It's hard to put runs up," Crookes said. "Once you get on a roll it becomes easier, but that's the best staff in the league, numbers-wise, and I believe they've got some very good arms. They're tough to score on, so you've got to play small ball."
The win keeps the Gulls in the lead for the second-half division championship after winning the first half.
"We got back to our winning ways after struggling for a little while," Hanish said. "We'll hopefully finish out strong and get some momentum going into the playoffs. It's harder to turn the switch on, so hopefully we can play well and carry it on into the playoffs."
Wisconsin 010 100 000 -- 2 8 3
Brainerd 021 314 00x -- 11 11 2
Wisconsin -- Matt O'Brien, James Morris (5), Mark Lowe (6) and Sean Patrick, Jason Wuerfel (7). Brainerd -- Damon White, Zach Sanchez (7), Jason Schlangen (9) and Ben Vannatter. W -- White (2-3). L -- O'Brien (0-3).
2B -- W-Matt Grooms; B-Daniel Bruce, John Purdom, Ben Vannatter. 3B -- B-Tyson Hanish. SB -- B-Bruce, Hanish, Tim Gray. Sac -- B-Blake Denischuk, Vannatter. RBI -- W-Dave Pudlosky; B-Denischuk, Purdom, Vannatter 2, McCarthy, Hanish 3. LOB -- W 8, B 11. DP -- B 1.
Time -- 2:58. Attendance -- 1,843. Records -- W 8-11, B 12-7. Next game -- Brainerd at Alexandria today 7:05 p.m.
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