Warriors 13, Apollo 1
Key: Winning pitcher Sam Miller allowed just one hit in four innings
Conf: Brd 4-1, SCA 2-2
Overall: Brd 5-1, SCA 2-2
Next: Brainerd hosts Sartell 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 30 (2)
Brainerd Warrior senior Sam Miller wasn't sure he would ever pitch again without pain after suffering a acromioclavicular (AC) joint injury during the 2017 football season.
But Tuesday, April 23, his shoulder felt good after allowing just one hit and one run in four innings on the mound in the Warriors' 13-1 Central Lakes Conference victory over the Apollo Eagles in five innings at Adamson Field in Brainerd.
"I played baseball last year, but I didn't pitch," Miller said. "I figured I would come back (as a pitcher), but I didn't know if I would have pain. I feel like I'm where I want to be with no pain in my shoulder."
It was the second quality start of the early season for Miller, who didn't allow a hit in five innings in his first outing - a 3-0 win over Fergus Falls on April 16.
"Sam has been able to bounce back from his injury," said Brainerd coach Trent Grams, whose team improved to 5-1 overall. "He had a nice start with no walks. Actually, we've had quality starts from all of our pitchers this spring."
Quality start summed up the first inning against Apollo as the Warriors took advantage of five hits, three hit batters and two walks to assume a 9-0 lead. Brainerd's first nine hitters all reached base and eventually scored against losing pitcher Reece Johnson and reliever Tanner Roob, who allowed just one run in three innings.
Brady Anderson singled inside the left-field line to drive in Seth Vagts with the first run. Michael Laber's two-run single gave the Warriors a 3-0 lead. Mason Argir later contributed a two-run single to make it 5-0 and then a sixth run scored on an infield error on Eric Martin's grounder. RBI ground outs by Vagts and Renzen Caughey extended the lead to 8-0 before Anderson's second hit of the inning scored the ninth run.
"I believe Brady tied a school record with two hits in one inning," Grams said of Anderson. "We had good at bats and took advantage of some mistakes."
The big first inning was key for the Warriors, who were coming off a 3-2 loss Monday, April 22, at Sauk Rapids-Rice.
"We played a tough game against a good left-handed pitcher (Brady Posch) from Sauk Rapids," said Grams, whose team had just two hits in suffering their first loss of the season. "Our kids showed something today as they were able to bounce back and turn the page. That's a testament to them by coming out and taking a big lead."
The commanding early lead helped Miller focus on simply throwing strikes.
"The big lead really helped," Miller said. "It took the pressure off. I just needed to throw strikes and let them hit it."
Miller and reliever Broc Peterson, who pitched the fifth inning, didn't allow any walks with each striking out two hitters.
"Brainerd's pitchers didn't allow a walk and that was the difference," said Apollo coach Adam Savolainen, whose three pitchers combined to allow nine hits, four walks and four hit batters. "You expect your pitchers to come in and throw strikes and we didn't do that. We do have a young team and there will be games where you can't get out of an inning."
The Warriors extended the lead to 10-0 in the third inning on back-to-back doubles by Caughey and Anderson. The Eagles scored their only run in the top of the fourth when Isaac Benesh doubled, for Apollo's only hit, and eventually scored on Sam Holthaus' sacrifice fly.
Brainerd scored their final three runs in the bottom of the inning on Ben Jones' RBI single and pinch hitter Gunnar Wicklund's two-run double.
Anderson finished with three hits and three RBIs while Caughey, Argir and Martin all scored twice.
Apollo 1 1 2
Brainerd 13 9 0
WP: Sam Miller. LP: Reece Johnson. 2B: SCA-Isaac Bensh; Brd-Renzen Caughey, Gunnar Wicklund, Brady Anderson 2.