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Baseball: Brainerd primed to defend home turf

Brainerd VFW Post No. 1657 didn't earn its way into this weekend's 64th annual VFW State tournament, but it wants to show it belongs. Brainerd opens the four-day tournament 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 against Fergus Falls at Don Adamson Field in ...

Brainerd VFW shortstop Jake Miller fields a ball Wednesday, Aug.8, during practice for Thursday’s opening round of the VFW state tournament against Fergus Falls 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Don Adamson Field. Steve Kohls
Brainerd VFW shortstop Jake Miller fields a ball Wednesday, Aug.8, during practice for Thursday’s opening round of the VFW state tournament against Fergus Falls 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Don Adamson Field. Steve Kohls

 

Brainerd VFW Post No. 1657 didn't earn its way into this weekend's 64th annual VFW State tournament, but it wants to show it belongs.

Brainerd opens the four-day tournament 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 against Fergus Falls at Don Adamson Field in Brainerd.

As the host site, Brainerd received an automatic bid into the tournament. Brainerd finished 1-2 in the District 6 tournament losing to Litchfield, beating Sauk Rapids in nine innings and then being eliminated by Pierz. Litchfield won the district title and is one of the other nine teams in the 10-team, double-elimination tournament.

Litchfield opens up against Luverne 10 a.m. at Mills Field. The winner of that game will play Lake Elmo/Woodbury in the quarterfinals. Chaska vs. Maple Grove is one quarterfinal, Winona vs. Grand Rapids is another and the winner of Brainerd/Fergus Falls will play Willmar in the fourth quarterfinal.

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Despite the early exit from the district playoffs, Brainerd enters the state tournament with a 21-4 record. According to Voigt, that's due to hitting, aggressive base running and solid pitching.

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64th Annual VFW State Tournament

  • When: Thursday-Sunday
  • Where: Don Adamson Field and Mills Field, Brainerd
  • Brainerd: Brainerd vs. Fergus Falls at Adamson Field 10:30 a.m. Thursday

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"If our pitchers throw strikes then they can be really good on the mound, but right now hitting is our strength," Voigt said. "We've been hitting really well. Right now our team batting average is above .340. I think we have three or four guys hitting over .400. The ball is getting put into play.

"We are really driving the ball. We have a number of extra-base hits, which is nice to see. That's a philosophy of mine to drive for doubles. It's nothing I brought to this team, it's just something we always talk about and reinforce their style of hitting and that's really taken off and they're starting to drive the ball."

Broc Peterson leads the team with a .492 batting average and 21 RBIs. Of his 31 hits, he's posted five doubles, a triple and two home runs.

Konnor Wicklund is hitting .452 with three doubles and 19 RBIs. Kaleb Sundquist is sporting a .412 average with a double. Colby Watland leads the team with nine doubles and a triple. He's hitting .344 with 19 runs batted in. Michael Laber has 18 RBIs, three doubles, a triple, a home run, a .373 average and a team-high 15 walks.

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Jake Miller has 19 RBIs and a .364 average to go with four doubles and two triples and Gunnar Wicklund is hitting .344 with eight doubles and a team-high three triples.

"Base running has really improved as well," Voight said. "I think we're averaging just under three stolen bases a game. We really haven't been thrown out very often. It stands out, in the first game of the districts, we got picked off a few times there and that was one of the only games we didn't run very well.

"The aggressiveness is definitely a strength and it comes from multiple guys being on the bases because we can hit."

Brainerd has 67 stolen bases and has only been caught stealing six times. Laber leads the team with 12 stolen bases, but most players on the roster have at least three.

"We really talk about this a lot," said Voight who also coaches the Central Lakes College Raiders baseball team. "I do talk about it a lot at the college level and at this level. We talk about getting comfortable with your lead and being able to get a big lead. When you're comfortable it no longer becomes a big lead. This group is very athletic. There is a lot of team speed."

Brainerd rosters 11 players who have pitched at least five innings with Ethan Sannes logging the most innings at 31 ⅓. In nine games, Sannes owns a 4-1 record with a 3.03 ERA.

Mason Argier owns a 1-1 record and a 4.88 ERA in 28 ⅔ innings.

Laber is 3-0 with a 3.73 ERA in 25 ⅓ innings. Kaleb Sundquist is 4-0 in just 14 innings of work. Marcus Lennartson is 1-0 with two saves and a team-low 0.76 ERA. Colby Watland is 2-1 with 23 strikeouts in 18 ⅔ innings.

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"The key is they come ready to go on the mound," Voigt said. "When they've all had kind of their bad games, so of speak, is when they're not throwing very many strikes. When you break things down, the guys who do have kind of the higher ERAs, as long as they throw strikes and concentrate and refocus and let a miscue or a walk go, that's when they've all be really good for us."

All games will be played at Adamson and Mills Field in Brainerd. The championship game will be 11 a.m. Sunday at Mills Field. A second game, if necessary, will follow.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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