HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL: Brainerd captures share of third straight CLC title
For 4.1 innings Nikki Anderson was as dominant as she’s been in four varsity seasons.
The senior left-hander was flinging a perfect game until Jaclyn Bautch cracked a sharp single to center.
Bautch was one of only two Tech baserunners — the other reached via an error — as Brainerd registered a 10-0, 5-inning win to capture a share of its third straight Central Lakes Conference title Friday at Adamson Field.
Anderson knew she was pitching a perfect game into the fifth “but I think I still pitched really well so I’m not too bummed about it. I just really want to keep up my game, keep up my hitting. The team is doing phenomenal right now. We had great defense. They kept me in the game, too.”
It was Brainerd’s 28th consecutive CLC win. Its last CLC loss was May 14, 2010, to Tech.
“It means a ton,” Anderson said of another title. “We want to keep up the great work, we want to win that title. That’s what moves us every single game is one more game to that title.”
As they have all season the Warriors’ offense backed Anderson with clutch hitting, nine hits in all. Chelsie Manton was 2-for-4, Anderson was 2-3 with two RBIs and Maria West was 2-3 with three RBIs.
“We hit and we ran the bases, we were kind of clicking on all cylinders again today,” Warriors coach Mike Zauhar said. “We had an attitude change at Rocori and we played very well down there. That carried over into practice and into today.
“As (assistant coach Dan) Bzdok said we’re getting to that playoff mode. I was very pleased with the effort today.”
Entering Friday’s game, Brainerd ranked second in Section 8-3A at 90.4 according to the Quality Results Formula, which will determine Section 8-3A seedings. Big Lake is first in section QRF at 92.8.
“As long as we keep winning we should be right in the running for (the No. 1 seed),” Zauhar said.
West, a sophomore shortstop, continues to produce at the plate. Entering the game with a .342 average, she raised her average 22 points.
“It’s been really different,” West said of varsity pitching. “A lot of the pitchers are way faster, but it’s a lot of fun because you get to hit more and against better pitchers.”
She connected for a 2-run single in the third and an RBI double in the fifth.
“My first at bat was really not good because I didn’t wait for it,” West said of a groundout to the pitcher. “The second ones I just made sure I waited for it and just hit it really hard.”
Brainerd scored three times in the first on Anderson’s run-scoring single and a 2-run double by Sarah Wennerstrand.
Anderson contributed another RBI single in a 3-run third.
Hannah Kangas’ bases-loaded walk in the fifth forced in the game-winning run.
Tech 000 00 — 0 1 6
Brainerd 303 04 — 10 9 1
Tech: Jaclyn Bautch and Kenna Hanisch.
Brainerd: Nikki Anderson and Nikki DeChaine.
WP: Anderson (15-1). LP: Bautch.
2B: Brd-Sarah Wennerstrand, Maria West
SB: Brd-Courtney O’Hotto.
RBIs: Brd-Hannah Kangas, Anderson 2, Wennerstrand 2, West 3
LOB: Brd 6, SCT 2
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.