MARSHALL -- It was seven years since Brainerd last made a trip to the American Legion Division I state baseball tournament.
And, before Brainerd knew it, its tournament appearance this week was done.
Facing one of the best teams in the state in second-ranked North St. Paul in Thursday's opening game, Brainerd held a 2-0 lead going into the final inning, only to give up three runs and lose 3-2.
In the second game, Brainerd got steamrolled by 17th-ranked Hopkins 19-1.
Brainerd managed only seven hits and three runs in two state tournament games, but coach Paul Jenkins said his team still had a successful season with a 25-7 record.
"It's just too bad we had to end on this note," Jenkins said.
"When you get down to state you have to click on all three cylinders. You have to hit, field and pitch and if you're missing any one of those you're in trouble."
North St. Paul 3, Brainerd 2
Joey Tautges led off the game with a double and moved to third when Chad Weiss reached on an error. Chris Klabo followed with a sacrifice fly to left to score Tautges, giving Brainerd the early lead.
Brainerd expanded its lead in the second when Aaron Jenkins, who was 2-for-2, led off with a single. He advanced to third on a Tony Parrish double and scored on another sacrifice fly, this time by Drew Boland, giving Brainerd a 2-0 lead.
North St. Paul threatened in the bottom of the second as it loaded the bases with two out, but Ryan Petersen grounded out to end the inning. North St. Paul also had runners at second and third with two out in the fourth but Brainerd starter Kevin Mertens fanned Jay Horner to end that threat.
Mertens pitched six solid innings, giving up two runs on eight hits with five walks and four strikeouts.
"We had North St. Paul beat," Paul Jenkins said. "It all came down to one play in the seventh inning and that was the difference."
That one play came after Greg Tubbesing singled to lead off the inning. Horner then hit a high chopper that shortstop Tony Parrish seemed to have measured for a double play. But Mertens tipped the ball, allowing Horner to reach first safely.
With one out and the bases loaded, Nick Biagini singled to score two runs and Robb Ross followed with a single to score Petersen and give North St. Paul the victory.
Hopkins 19, Brainerd 1
What started out as a close game quickly turned into a rout when Hopkins came out firing. Leadoff hitter Brady Olson reached on an error by Parrish. He scored on a Joe Abellera single to center for a 1-0 lead.
Brainerd tied it in the second when Mark Germain, who reached on a walk, scored when Hopkins third baseman Matt Bouts couldn't handle Boland's sharp grounder, tying the game.
Brainerd then got lit up in the bottom of the second as Hopkins scored seven runs on seven hits, highlighted by a Nate Hawes three-run homer. Hawes finished 3-for-4 with two runs and four RBI.
Things went from bad to worse in the third when Hopkins plated 11 runs on seven more hits. Matt Borman had two doubles and four RBI in the inning for Hopkins.
"Our pitchers were throwing perfect speed for their hitters," Paul Jenkins said as he sent five different pitchers to the mound. "They hit everything we threw at them.
"But looking back, we can reflect on the season and realize that we had a good season."
North St. Paul 000 000 3 -- 3 10 1
Brainerd 110 000 0 -- 2 4 1
Brainerd -- Kevin Mertens, Joey Tautges (7) and Tautges, Morgan Shepherd. W -- Ryan Naughton. L -- Mertens. 2B -- B-Tautges, Tony Parrish. Sac -- B-Drew Boland, Chris Klabo. RBI -- B-Klabo, Boland; NSP-Nick Biagini 2, Robb Ross.
Brainerd 010 00 -- 1 3 3
Hopkins 17(11) 0x -- 19 17 2
Hopkins -- Matt Borman, Terry Gracyk (5) and Nate Hawes. Brainerd -- Chad Weiss, Drew Boland (2), Ryan Browning (2), Mark Germain (3), Joey Tautges (3) and Tautges, Morgan Shepherd. W -- Borman. L -- Chad Weiss. 2B -- H-Brady Olson, Ryan Papke, Borman 2, Joe Abellera, Hawes, Matt Bouts 2. HR -- Hawes. Sac -- B-Aaron Jenkins. RBI -- H-Olson 2, Papke 4, Borman 4, Abellera 2, Hawes 4, Bouts, Jake Waldman. Records -- Brainerd finishes 25-7.
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