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Softball: Warriors advance with shutout of Lumberjacks

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The No. 1-seeded Brainerd Warriors had an efficient day Monday, getting three runs in the first inning and settling in defensively behind Maddie Franz on their way to an 8-0 win over No. 4 Bemidji in the Section 8-3A winners bracket game.

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The win set up a home game at 4 p.m. Wednesday against Becker.

Franz speared a line drive heading up the middle and threw to first for a double play to end a Lumberjacks scoring threat in the first inning.

She then cleared the bases with a 3-run double and the Warriors never looked back.

“I was very pleased with the effort and we were really focused and it showed in the first inning,” said Warriors head coach Mike Zauhar. “I do think the heat was a factor as the game wore on for both teams. When you are up 3-0 it’s a bit cooler than when you are down 3-0.

“Maddie Franz had a big day and took the team on her shoulders and carried them. She had an outstanding day pitching and hitting. I also thought that Sara Dick had a great day as well.”

Franz pitched the complete game shutout giving up just two hits while striking out eight. Offensively she went 1-3 with the three RBI.

Dick, batting in the ninth spot, went 3-3 with one RBI, three stolen bases, and one run scored.

“Sara evolved into that role last year and came on strong,” Zauhar said. “Now this year she is really coming on strong so we look at it as we have two leadoff hitters. Sara is not a No. 9 hitter. She is mentally tough and is doing a tremendous job.”

The Lumberjacks came out swinging in the first inning. Hanna Olson led off with a solid base hit. Heather Olson came to the plate and it looked like Bemidji was going to put something on the board as she hit a screaming liner up the middle. However, Franz was able to spear the drive and then threw to first to double up Hanna Olson. Sylvia Grimm then flew out to right field and the Warriors were out of the inning.

It would be the only serious Bemidji threat all day.

In the bottom of the first, Bailey O’Hotto walked and stole second. Maria West then delivered a base hit and also stole a base. Sara Wennerstrand walked and the Warriors had the bases loaded for Franz.

Franz didn’t waste any time as she delivered a double to left-center on the first pitch that scored all three runs giving Brainerd a 3-0 lead after one inning.

“It was good to get their girls off the bases right away. I didn’t know that I had caught it but it was good to get that right away,” said Franz of the first-inning action. “And I’m always looking to swing at a first pitch because as a pitcher I know they are trying to get ahead in the count.”

Bemidji wouldn’t get another runner past second base and Franz and the Warriors defense took over as they played mistake-free.

Bemidji pitcher Monica Wittner also settled down as she shut down the Warriors in the second, third, and fourth.

However, Brainerd was able to put some insurance runs on the board in the fifth. Dick led things off with a single and stole second. With one out Maria West was safe on an error. Sara Wennerstrand came through with a one-out triple that scored two runs and Brainerd led 5-0 after five innings.

The Warriors added three runs in the sixth. The big hit was off the bat of Lizzy Rueger as she hit a towering fly ball down the right field line that Bemidji’s Annika Johnson couldn’t keep in her glove. It scored Faith Kassulker and Madi Veith to put the game away.

The Warriors move on to Wednesday to play Becker, a team they did not face during the regular season. Zauhar and Franz agreed that focus is the key to moving on.

“With our group of girls, I think if we are focused and ready to play we can do anything,” said Franz.

“When we sent out them out, they seemed very focused defensively and I think we are a good defensive team and it showed today”, said Zauhar. “If we continue to do that we will be in good shape.”

Bemidji 000 000 0 — 0 2 1

Brainerd 300 023 x — 8 7 0

WP: Maddie Franz

LP: Monica Wittner

2B: Brd-Franz

3B: Brd-Sara Wennerstrand

SB: Brd-Bailey O’Hotto, Maria West (2), Sara Dick (3)

RBIs: Brd-Franz (3), Wennerstrand, Elizabeth Rueger, Dick

DP: Brd 1

LOB: Bem 3, Brd 3

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