BASEBALL Hitting, relief pitching spark Brainerd rally
Power hitting and scoreless relief pitching can overcome difficulties on defense.
Brainerd committed four errors that led to four unearned runs but drilled five extra-base hits and Mike Smith pitched 4.2 innings in relief to help the Warriors rally for a 10-7 win over the Fergus Falls Otters on Thursday at Adamson Field.
Mitch Bzdok and Bruce London blasted two-run homers and Patrick Skogen, Jack Hegarty and Kevin Peterson cracked doubles as Brainerd won its fourth straight game.
“Our defense, which I’ve been bragging about all year, had a few lapses today but the nice thing was to see our kids come back,” Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said. “We were down three runs (twice) and we came back and got some hits.”
Trailing 7-4 in the fourth, the Warriors sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six times. Skogen ripped a two-run double, London’s towering two-run shot to left put Brainerd ahead to stay, and Kevin Peterson added an RBI double.
Skogen finished 2-for-4 with a splendid diving catch in center. Shortstop Jack Hegarty was also 2-for-4 as Brainerd totaled 10 hits.
Smith entered the game with runners at second and third, one out and Brainerd trailing 5-4. Two runs, charged to Bzdok, in his first start of the season, scored on errors before Smith retired the side.
From then on, Smith was virtually untouchable. The lanky left-hander struck out seven, walked none, and allowed just two hits and no runs.
“I needed to come in and throw strikes, and basically I did,” Smith said. “I just wanted to help out ‘Biz.’ We needed someone out there to get guys out. We had a great defensive play in center by Skogen. He’s always out there catching balls.”
Smith threw 68 pitches, 43 strikes. Surprisingly, he threw first-pitch strikes to only nine of the 20 batters he faced.
“Mike came in and did a great job,” Scearcy said. “I don’t believe any runs were credited to him. He came in with one out in the third and pretty much held his own against a pretty good offensive team on a tough day.
“This was a tough day for pitchers. I think this is the first game this year where the wind was blowing out. Actually, I was surprised there weren’t more home runs than what there were today.”
All of Smith’s 8.1 innings pitched this season have been in relief.
“At the beginning of the year it was my first varsity time and I was a little shaky,” he said. “I was a little nervous out there but this time I was pretty calm.
“They always bring me in when there’s lefties in there, and (Fergus Falls) had three in a row.”
Bzdok hit a two-run homer to right-center, near the 370-foot sign. The first-inning poke scored Hegarty, who had doubled.
The Otters overcame the 2-0 deficit with a five-run second. Cody Lehmann had an RBI single, Abbot Aho an RBI on a fielder’s choice and Pete Gaustad slammed a two-run single.
Brainerd added two runs in the second, closing within 5-4, with one run scoring on Blake Thiesse’s fielder’s choice.
The Otters added two run in the third, one earned, for their 7-4 lead.
Brainerd will play its fourth game in four days when it hosts Grand Rapids on Friday and travels to Willmar for a makeup game Saturday.
Fergus Falls 052 000 0 — 7 8 2
Brainerd 220 600 x — 10 10 4
Fergus Falls: Tim Rasmusson, Bill Rodning (4) and Pete Gaustad.
Brainerd: Mitch Bzdok, Mike Smith (3) and Bruce London.
W: Smith (2-0). L: Rasmusson.
2B: Jack Hegarty (B), Patrick Skogen (B), Kevin Peterson (B), Luke Heck (FF), Derick Viger (FF)
HR: Bzdok, London
SB: Bill Rodning (FF), Nick Heck (FF), Cody Lehmann (FF)
S: Bennett Woods (FF)
RBIs: Bzdok 2, Blake Thiesse (B), Skogen 2, London 2, Kevin Peterson, Nick Heck, Gaustad 2, Lehmann, Abbot Aho (FF)
DP: FF 1
LOB: FF 8, Brd 5
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.