Colin MacDonald gives his broadcast booth perspective in the third installment of lakes area’s top 5 spring memories.
My experience with spring sports has largely been Brainerd Warrior baseball from the broadcast booth of KLIZ for roughly 25 years. So many good memories and so many wins, thanks to coach (Lowell) Scearcy and coach (Keith) Peterson.
Warrior boys basketball state tourney 2013
I’ll cheat to start, but since the pandemic stole our boys basketball state tournament this year I’ll say the Warrior boys basketball trip to state in 2013. Coach (Scott) Stanfield’s squad was amazing, running off 14 straight wins to start the season, losing a classic 95-93 at Moorhead then 11 more wins to finish up the regular season.
A senior-laden team, the Warriors picked up two tough victories over Buffalo and Elk River to advance to the Class 4A state tournament for the first time in over 20 years. The Sauer boys Jack and Tony, Jacob Blong, Marcus Comstock, Ian Haug, Jagar Hanson, Chris and Connor Bowman along with the rest of Brainerd, were off to the Target Center.
Awaiting the Warriors were Tyus Jones and Apple Valley. In the strangest seeding of all time, the 28-1 Warriors somehow were seeded No. 8.
The game of the tournament was played at 10 a.m. in front of a sea of Warrior faithful. The atmosphere courtside, the big Timberwolves logo at center court and the Brainerd boys standing tall for the National Anthem are vivid memories for me. The game was hard-fought and very entertaining with the Warriors leading by 8 early in the game then retaking the lead at the buzzer on a 3-pointer from Jack Sauer to lead at the half 36-34. The final of 81-67 is deceiving, as the score was tied with six minutes to go. The Warriors played hard and played great.
Marcus Comstock led the way with 17 points and Chris Bowman had 12.
Tyus Jones would later tell me that at 29-0 Apple Valley couldn’t believe they had to play the 28-1 Warriors in round one and that the Warriors were the best team they played in the state tournament.
On the season, Jack Sauer led the Warriors in scoring at 15.8 points per game, Comstock 15.0, Blong 12.7, Ian Haug 8.1 and Tony Sauer 7.7
The team averaged 73 points per game.
2010 Warriors run to state
The 2010 Brainerd Warriors were highlighted by a team batting average of .340 and pitching staff ERA of 2.33 that never gave up walks.
After 14 games, Brainerd stood at 10-4 then reeled off 6 in a row to finish the regular season. The Warriors swept four straight in the section 8-3A playoffs thanks to four more solid pitching performances by Kyle Crocker, Joel Martin and Burrell Flanagan.
At the state tournament, Brainerd met Burnsville in Game One and it was a classic. Kyle Crocker was on the hill for the Warriors and it went back and forth all day until centerfielder Alex Rohde belted a clutch home run late to stake the Warriors to a 5-4
lead, one of my all-time favorite home run calls.
Sadly Burnsville would scratch out a couple of runs in the seventh and pull out the win. The Warriors would defeat Robbinsdale Armstrong later that day and Rochester Mayo the following day 2-1 behind a gem from Flannagan. Scearcy often said a baseball bounce here or there could cost you a state championship or
win you a state tournament.
Kyle Crocker had an extraordinary season hitting .449 with six home runs and 28 RBIs. Ethan Nichols hit .419, Tom Fairbanks .397, Alex Rohde .353, Tate Rusk .372 with 26 RBIs and Reid Mimmack .313.
Crocker led the way on the mound at 7-2 with a 1.84 ERA, he was joined by Joel Martin 5-2 with a 3.15 and between the two walked only 21 batters in 114 innings. Both are in the Warriors top 5 all-time for least base on balls per game. Flanagan finished 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA and Jack Hegarty 4-0 with a 1.52 ERA.
Crocker would go on to play for the Gophers, Martin for Luther, Fairbanks at Superior, Hegarty at Bemidji. Mimmack and Rusk played college hockey. Others went on to play as well.
The Mauer Game
The 2001 Warrior baseball team followed their State Championship in 2000 with another fabulous year.
Starting the year 8-3, the Warriors rolled off eight straight wins into the section tournament. On the mound, the combination of Matt Means and Nick Weiland were nearly unbeatable going 17-1 with six of those wins in the sections. Means would actually wind up 9-0 on the season and finish his Warrior career at 11-0.
With a rain delay on Day One, the Warriors played two the first day at state. Weiland twirled a gem in the opener beating New Ulm 1-0. That set up Means against Cretin-Derham Hall’s ace Tony Leseman with battery mate Joe Mauer. The Warriors jumped on CDH early leading 3-0 after the second, but multiple base-running miscues cost the Warriors a chance at much more.
The Warriors held a 4-1 lead when Mauer came up with two men on and it was decision time. Walk the tying run and face Leseman who was hitting .522 or face Mauer who was amazingly over .600. The decision was pitch to Mauer carefully.
Matt Means and catcher Joey Tautges described the pitch as six-inches outside. Mauer liked it and crushed a three-run homer to tie the game. Ben Winterfeld pitched well in relief of Means and dualed with Mauer until CDH scored on a throwing error in the ninth to win 5-4. It was a thrilling game to call and Mauer was extraordinary, hitting a double, a three-run home run and pitching the final five innings topping 90 mph, giving up one hit and striking out 9. Mike Zauhar had three hits for Brainerd and Tautges had the lone hit off of Mauer. Without much left in the tank, the Warriors would fall to Holy Angels 3-2 and CDH would go on to win the state championship.
Mauer of course went on to be the No. 1 draft pick of the Twins and is the only catcher in Major League history to win three batting titles. Leseman would go on to patrol centerfield for the Golden Gophers for four years.
The Warriors had three players, Weiland, Zauhar and Danny Kirkpatrick hit over .400 and four more over .300, including Means, Tautges, Tim Siekas and Adam Hardy. They finished 23-6 and were in the middle of an impressive seven trips to the state tournament in 10 years 1994-2003.
Baseball fans know that when viewing a game there is always a decent chance that you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. An amazing memory for me came early in my Warrior broadcasting career at the 1996 State Tournament.
In the opening game, Brainerd took on the always tough Rosemont Irish coached by former Twin Craig Kusick. As the first round game rolled along the Warriors found themselves trailing 6-4 after six innings. And then “The Inning” began.
Mike Bjerkness led off with a hard smash in the infield for out No. 1, it would be quite a long time before there would be another putout. Warrior star Jade O’Brien got things going with a base hit, Brad Streiff singled to right to put two on base. Power hitting Chris Studer hit one straight up the elevator shaft as Sammy Morris probably said and somehow it fell in the infield for hit No. 3.
That was just the start of things, Ryan Theisse singled followed by pinch hitter Nic Hanson who bounced one over third for another hit. Of course Sammy and I credited Sceacy’s genius for the call to the bench. Then Brian Day doubled. Six hits in a row and we were only half way through.
Chad Bertrum singled to center as the crafty lefty and I began to laugh in disbelief of what was happening. Joe Browning laid down a bunt and guess what? Base hit. Mike Bjerkness came up again and doubled. O’Brien followed with another double for the Warriors 10th hit in a row. Brad Streiff followed with his second hit of the inning, then Studer came up again and made up for the pop up hit with a blast off the batters’ eye in center field. The press box guys said they’d never seen a high school player hit it there.
Brainerd went to the bottom of seventh leading 16-6. Just to make it interesting and an even longer inning the Irish scored four more as the Warriors would win 16-10. 12 hits in a row and 12 runs in the inning. Both still stand as Minnesota state records, what fun to call that one.
Game two saw Luke Weiland pitch a shutout as the Warriors defeated Grand Rapids 3-0 Setting up the state championship game against C-DH, as the Warriors went for two titles in a row. C-DH would win a classic 6-4 as the Warriors had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh but didn’t pull it out.
O’Brien finished his senior year hitting .389, 10 home runs and 29 RBIs and would play for Iowa State.
Studer finished at .417 with six homers and 28 RBIs. Streiff hit .384 with Bjerkness, Theisse and Bertrum all over .300.
The Warriors finished 23-5 with Jeff Barrett 9-0 and Luke Weiland 7-3 and Streiff 3-1.
“The Inning” with 12 straight hits…that’s just good coaching Scearcy and Peterson.
The Press Box
This may only qualify as a personal highlight, but the Press Box at Don Adamson has been so fun.
Why? Because it’s full of ‘baseball guys’. My broadcast partners started with ‘the crafty lefthander’ the late Sam Morris, a baseball encyclopedia and dependably unpredictable. He was so much fun to work games and swap stories with and definitely kept me on my toes. You never knew what was coming down the pipe. Calling play-by-play with the last bite of hog dog in his mouth, yelling to the ‘local scribe’ Mike Bialka and the ‘the voice of God’ Johnny Bachland in the middle of innings or regaling us with Smokey Burgess and Norm Cash. What fun. And road trips with Sammy are a whole other chapter.
Next up was my friend Brian Schultz ‘the boy wonder’ as Scearcy once said with regard to Schultzie’s techy capabilities, Brian didn’t stay too long but we did call the 2000 State
Championship run together. His career took him to Bemidji as the voice of BSU hockey along with lots and lots of other hats. The only drawback may have been a few too many Brewer references.
Scott Gross was top notch to work with as well.
Baseball guys would wander in and out over the years. Tim Martin, Ray Austin, Coach Z (Mike Zauhar), Clem Belcher, Big Hop (Jon Haapajoki), coach (Jay) Sannes, coach (Shane) Jordan, Tony Veith and even ‘E-bay’ Eric Martin from about age 7 or so all weaving in a story here and there because that’s what baseball guys do.
I know I’ve left out plenty of other characters.
Another aspect is the parents of the players coming by the press windows to say
hello. There are a new group of good people every year with some becoming longtime friends. Maybe they had to treat us well, after all I was talking about their son’s, Mike and Jeremy were writing about their son’s and Johnny B and Tim Peabody were introducing their sons. I regret not getting to meet this year’s fresh batch of parents and talking about their boys.
Then finally there’s the concession stand, Johnny in particular could smooth talk hot dogs, popcorn and soda to the press box with delivery. We just could not give any to Sammy at the beginning of an inning.