A come-from-behind victory over the defending American Legion state and World Series champion earlier Friday has fueled Brainerd's drive to remain alive at state.
Following a 7-6 ouster of second-ranked Rochester, Brainerd eliminated Richfield 5-4 later Friday in the losers' bracket at Bell Field in Faribault.
"It was pretty satisfying to get a win against the defending national champions," Brainerd coach Mark Germain said.
Brainerd was scheduled to play Grand Rapids 10 a.m. Saturday in the losers' bracket. It beat Grand Rapids two of three times in the regular season.
-- The Brainerd Legion stayed a live with a pair of wins at the state tournament Friday.
Brainerd 5, Richfield 4
Justin Huether's two-out three-run triple in the bottom of the eighth won the game for Brainerd. He also earned a save by recording the final two outs with the bases loaded.
"What an awesome hit," Germain said of Huether's triple. "Justin came through. He's been down a little bit at bat. Slowly but surely, in the district and state tournaments, he's been a motivator for us.
"He's been a team player. When he's not playing he's cheering the team on. I was glad to see him get a hit to reward him for his efforts off the field."
Starter Blake Eller struck out nine and walked three in 8 1/3 innings.
"Blake was on," Germain said. "He hasn't pitched in a while."
Since losing to host Northfield 6-5 in its opener Thursday, Brainerd has won three of four games by a combined total of four runs.
"From the first pitch on we came out and played well," Germain said of the Richfield game. "Our team was pumped (after beating Rochester). We're playing good baseball, making good choices, keeping our errors down, hitting the ball, that's what's keeping us in it."
Chris Klabo was 2-for-4 with a double and single, Huether was 2-4 and Kyle Holbrook and Aaron Jenkins contributed RBI.
Richfield 4 9 1
Brainerd 5 7 1
WP-Blake Eller. LP-Ian Neal. Save-Justin Huether. Record-Brd 30-6. Next game-Brainerd vs. Grand Rapids, 10 a.m. Saturday at Northfield, winner plays 4 p.m. Saturday at Northfield.
Brainerd 7, Rochester 6
Eller's two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh gave Brainerd a lead it would not relinquish. Eller, who finished 3-for-5 with three RBI, also had an RBI single in the first.
Brainerd rallied from a 5-1 deficit as Klabo hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth. He finished 3-4.
Brainerd tied it 5-5 in sixth, Rochester scored a single run in the top of the seventh before Eller's shot won it.
Tony Parrish finished 3-5, Huether had an RBI single and Fred Weiss was 2-4.
Aaron Jenkins pitched seven solid innings in relief of starter Kevin Mertens to get the win. Jenkins walked seven and gave up four runs and five hits.
Rochester had the bases loaded in the top of the ninth when Jenkins got a fielder's choice to end the game.
Mertens pitched two innings, then departed with a sore arm. He gave up two runs and struck out one.
Rochester 6 5 2
Brainerd 7 13 3
Roch-Jay Kasner, Bryan Denisen (6), Olson (8) and Zach Hickey, Olofson (8). Brd-Kevin Mertens, Aaron Jenkins (3) and Kyle Holbrook. W-Jenkins. LP-Olosson. HR-Brd, Klabo, Eller.
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