Brainerd Braves pitcher Tony Whitlock wound up walking taller than his 6-foot-52, 20-pound counterpart, Mac Zachow.
In one of the best pitching duels in the Class C amateur baseball state tournament Aug. 19 at Sleepy Eye, Whitlock went all 13 innings to lift the Braves to a 3-2 victory over Arlington.
The marathon may be one tournament fans talk about for years. Whitlock, a 6-foot, 155-pound right-hander, gave up just seven hits and three walks while striking out 16. Zachow, a flame-thrower who was drafted from Gaylord, lasted 12 2/3 innings, striking out 13, walking six and giving up seven hits.
"As far as a pitching duel it was by far the best I have ever been involved with," Whitlock said. "It probably was one of the best I have ever seen.
"We've got a good hitting ballclub. For him to come in and shut us down ... he lasted 12 2/3 innings. I think if they hadn't pulled him he could have gone longer. "He looked like he was getting tired. He was a gamer. He seemed like a competitor."
Whitlock, another fierce competitor, said he actually felt he was getting after the eighth inning.
"I know my velocity was still there," he said. "What happens is the more I throw the less I overthrow my breaking ball. I get better control of it.
"One of our league officials asked me in the 11th how long I thought I could go. I said I thought I had four or five innings left in me if needed."
Whitlock, who may be on the mound again 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Fairfax in the second round of the tournament against Minnesota Lake, this summer has added to his reputation as one of the top pitchers in Central Minnesota. In 111.1 innings he has struck out 123 and walked just 26 with a 12-2 record. He relies primarily on a fastball and slider, with an occasional overhand or side-arm curve and changeup mixed in to keep hitters honest.
"One thing I've really worked on this year is control, to get ahead and stay ahead," the 23-year-old employee of Rohlfing Supply said. "I try to pick my corners and my spots. If you start falling behind it's an easy way to lose a game."
His success on the mound the past few seasons earned the 1995 Brainerd High School graduate a tryout with the Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks of the Northern League last spring.
"They seemed fairly impressed," Whitlock said. "I don't think they knew much about me or anything I had done.
"It was not too big of a disappointment when nothing happened with it. Just playing town ball is not going to get your name out too many places. They had signed their last pitcher the day before I showed up.
"I would have dropped everything and moved that day. The money is a scrap but to play ball every day that's about everybody's dream."
Whitlock and the Braves have had dream seasons. Brainerd has lost only five of 39 games. If the Braves defeat Minnesota Lake they would play 5 p.m. Sunday at Fairfax against the Milroy-Litchfield winner and would be one of eight teams left in the tournament, which is a double-elimination event the rest of the way.
"If we play ball the way we're capable I think we could go quite a ways," Whitlock said. "We're at the time where every team there is good. We just can't make any mistakes."
The Braves have made few mistakes this season. They are a team with an average age of about 22 who possess power hitting, deep pitching and solid defense.
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