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VFW Baseball: Brainerd wins district 7-4

COLD SPRING - A two-run first inning and Hanson Devin's pitching were too much for Becker, which fell to Brainerd for the second straight day, this time a 7-4 loss in the championship game of the District 6 tournament Thursday.

Devine struck out three, walked two and allowed two earned runs on eight hits over 6.2 innings to secure his seventh win of the summer season.

"Great thing about Devine is strike one," said Brainerd head coach Keith Peterson. "Friday afternoon he threw 22 balls and 63 strikes. He's our guy. He's the best of our starters on strike one. When we have a chance to pitch him twice in a tournament, I feel that gives us an edge. We're pretty deep at that position, but 62 percent strike one, that really gives us an extra bonus. He had a five pitch inning today. He had a four pitch inning the other night. That allows him to go deep into games."

Jake Meyer got the final out for the save. Meyer was also 2-2 at the plate with a run scored and an RBI. Tristan Brecht drove in Brainerd's two first-inning runs with a ground out. Dallon Saiko's double ignited a four-run sixth inning for Brainerd. Colton Borg scored one of his two runs on Saiko's hit. Jack Geraets was 2-3 with two runs and an RBI and Allen Jevning got a hit and scored a run.

The key, however, might have been Brainerd's 7-6 win over Becker Tuesday night in the winner's bracket game.

"Last night went a long way for us winning tonight because Becker had to pitch their catcher, who is a varsity catcher," Peterson said. "He's an OK pitcher, but he's a good catcher and they had to put him out there to pitch and we were able to get a couple of runs early on balls that went in the dirt that he would normally get if he was catching. That was a big thing for us."

Becker beat Sartell 10-6 to secure a spot into the state tournament and advance to face Brainerd in the championship game. They will take over the host spot in the bracket, while Brainerd will get the more favorable District 6 winner spot in the state bracket. The state tournament will start Aug. 7 and will be played in Brainerd at Adamson field and Mills Field.

Peterson is excited about what he saw out of his team during this tournament

"People talk about clutch hitting, but clutch defense was big for us," he said. "Jaden Miller made two diving catches of line drives that stopped rallies. We turned two double plays in the game last night. We've done a lot better on ground ball defense and clutch defense when you have runners on base and they're running everywhere. I'm not even sure if clutch defense is a phrase, but we've got it.

"I also like our pitching depth You look at a guy like Dylan Harbo, who came into last night's game and threw up zeros in three of his four innings. We were down 5-1. He's thrown a lot of innings for us, but not in situations like last night. Our depth at pitcher has come along way. "Those two things are what I'm most excited about heading into the state tournament."

Becker 4 8 0

Brainerd 7 7 1

WP: Hanson Devine. LP: Cody Gruenhagen. 2B: Brd-Dallon Salko. Overall: Brd 21-3. Next: Brainerd to host the state VFW tournament Aug. 7.