The chances were definitely available for the Brainerd Warriors VFW team to score against St. Cloud West pitchers Travis Laudenbach and Ryan Helgeson, but the Warriors were unable convert with two bases-loaded opportunities in both the sixth and seventh innings.
The Warriors lost to St. Cloud West 3-0 in their bid for the VFW District 6 championship game.
"We needed one more blooper to get our momentum going and score some runs, we just didn't get that clutch hit," said Brainerd head coach Joel Lofstrom.
Brainerd's best chance to cut into the three run St. Cloud lead was in the sixth inning against Helgeson.
Warrior catcher Nick Jelacie led off the Warrior half by reaching base on an error committed by second baseman Tyler Peterson.
Colton Metzger and Bronson Sheppherd followed Jelacie with consecutive singles to load the bases with no outs. Sheppherd led the Brainerd offense with a 3-for-3 performance. He was the only Warrior with multiple base hits.
As was true throughout the game when the Warriors had runners in scoring position, Brainerd could not manage to plate a run.
Brainerd first-baseman Brett Cloutier recorded the first out by popping an infield fly to St. Cloud's David Koenig.
With the bases still loaded and only one out, Brett Kramer grounded to shortstop Nate Laudenbach, who stepped on second and fired it to first base for the inning-ending double play.
The story was much the same in the seventh for the Warriors.
Helgeson swiftly retired the first two Brainerd batters to put St. Cloud only one out away from the championship game.
Bo Jedinak kept Warrior hopes alive by reaching first on a Helgeson fielding error. Helgeson was unable to handle Jedinak's bouncer right back to the mound.
No. 2 batter Chris Smolke crushed a double to deep center field that advanced Jedinak to third and put two runs in scoring position.
Nick Jelacie showed patience at the plate and drew a walk from Helgeson to load the bases for Metzger.
Metzger had the chance to live every kids' dream, if just for a moment. The right fielder had the bases loaded with two out in the final inning with a chance to win the game.
Metzger, the tying run, was able to work Helgeson into a full count.
The walk-off grand slam was not destined for this game, as Metzger swung at a letter-high pitch from Helgeson and missed to give St. Cloud the 3-0 victory.
Helgeson picked up the save for St. Cloud West, pitching two shutout innings.
Brainerd ended up leaving 10 runners on base over the course of the game, seven more than St. Cloud West.
Lofstrom added that his team's offensive woes were attributed to St. Cloud's good pitching and solid defense.
"Their pitchers fell behind, but they fought back and didn't walk guys. They made a couple of errors, but we didn't respond with any hits or walks to score runs."
"We just couldn't string enough hits together to produce any runs," said Brainerd team manager Rhett Williamson.
Aric Hurd pitched a complete game for the Warriors, allowing three runs and striking out six batters.
"Aric pitched a very good game for us," said Lofstrom. "He didn't walk anyone and challenged them by throwing strikes.
"They got a couple hits and a few runs, and that was the ballgame."
Hurd said this was his best pitching performance of the year.
"I started shaky, but as the game progressed I loosened up and overall I pitched well," he said. "This was definitely my best outing of the year, I just didn't get any run support."
St. Cloud West scored one run in the first inning and two in the third.
Hurd held St. Cloud hitless for the final four innings, but no runs produced by the offense resulted in a frustrating end to the season for the Brainerd VFW team.
St. Cloud West 3 8 2
Brainerd 0 7 0
W -- Travis Laudenbach. L -- Aric Hurd. Sv -- Ryan Helgeson. 2B -- Brd- Chris Smolke; SCW- Tyler Peterson, Nate Laudenbach. 3B -- SCW- Laudenbach. RBI -- SCW- Laudenbach(2), Dan Roeder. LOB -- Brd- 10; SCW- 3. DP -- SCW- 2.
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