The Brainerd Mighty Gulls could have used some of Joe Namath's luck Friday night at Mills Field.
The promotion for Brainerd's Northwoods League baseball game against the St. Cloud River Bats was Bash the Bats. The Mighty Gulls were guaranteeing a victory to clinch the North Division second half. If they lost everyone in attendance would receive free passes to a playoff game.
Everyone in attendance received free passes to a Mighty Gulls playoff game. Sloppy defense turned into a 4-1 victory for the River Bats.
"I hated it. I think it's stupid. I just think it's dumb. Nobody knows the game well enough to guarantee a win." -- Kyle Crooks, Gulls coach
Unlike Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, the Gulls never got on track as a first inning throwing error by third baseman Tyson Hanish turned into a 1-0 deficit.
The River Bats scored again in the third when another error put St. Cloud center fielder, Joe Pietro, on base. A double by Evan Howard, his second of the game, scored Pietro for a 2-0 River Bat lead.
"Pietro puts a lot of pressure on everybody because he's fast," said Gulls coach Kyle Crooks. "So does Wes Long (St. Cloud's third baseman) because they're so fast.
"(Hanish's error) was a tough play anyways. It's a tough error for Tyson to take."
Despite trailing 2-0, Gulls pitcher Ryan Hamilton pitched solid. In seven innings of work he gave up seven hits, four runs, two earned. He struck out six and walked just one.
"He's done that all year," said Crooks. "That's the first time he's really been exposed as far as the running game was concerned. Normally there aren't that many runners to expose it.
"I don't think it's the best he's thrown but he definitely gave himself a chance to win."
The guaranteed win was announced after Brainerd's 4-2 win over Alexandria Thursday night.
"I hated it," Crooks said. "I think it's stupid. I just think it's dumb. Nobody knows the game well enough to guarantee a win.
"That's fine. I know they do it at every yard, but I'm not a big fan of it."
Unlike the Jets who were heavy underdogs against the Baltimore Colts, Brainerd had owned the River Bats this season.
In the previous seven meetings against St. Cloud, Brainerd won five of them.
"It's tough to dig yourself out of a hole especially when their pitching is so strong," said Crooks.
Former Little Falls graduate Jason King picked up the win. He went five innings allowing two hits and no runs. He struck out six and walked one.
Josh Kougel relieved King and promptly gave up the Gulls lone run. Brainerd's Ben Vannatter beat out a throw to first and later scored on a Matt Rebout double that was miss played by Joe Gaetti in right field.
After that Kougel settled down. He struck out four, walked none and gave up just four hits.
Brainerd owns a 2 1/2 game lead over St. Cloud in the North Division standings with four games left, including two against St. Cloud.
St. Cloud 101 002 000 -- 4 9 2
Brainerd 000 001 000 -- 1 5 2
St. Cloud -- Jason King, Josh Kougel (6) and Chris Danavee . Brainerd -- Ryan Hamilton, Zach Sanchez (8) and John Purdom . W -- King. L -- Hamilton. Sv -- Kougel.
2B -- B-Matt Rebout, St.C-Evan Howard (2), Chris Kinsey, Duston Atkinson. SB -- B-Ryan McCarthy, St.C-Wes Long (2), Howard. RBI -- B-Rebout, St.C-Howard, Jaramillio. LOB -- B 5, St.C 6.
Records -- B 19-10, St.C 16-12. Next game -- Brainerd at St. Cloud 7:05 p.m. today.
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