Baseball: Warriors drop home opener to Rocori
Brainerd hosts Rocori in home opener Friday, April 16
Rocori’s Cole Fuchs let his pitching do the talking Friday, April 16.
The junior threw six innings and allowed three hits and two runs to Brainerd hitters. None of the runs were earned and he struck out four.
Fuchs got early run support as well to be the winning pitcher in the Spartans 7-2 Central Lakes Conference win over the Warriors at Adamson Field.
“I don’t want to take anything away from our offense, but what really helped us was our pitcher threw strikes and guys made plays behind him,” Rocori head coach Jeff Illies said. “I felt like since we were able to keep them at bay early, it helped our offense get going.
“(Fuchs) was extremely efficient. We had him on a pitch count and we thought that would keep him at three to four innings, but he was able to go six innings. He kept the ball down and that was key. His strike was at the knee every time. He never missed up to give those hitters a chance to find a gap.”
Brainerd’s loss is their second straight in two days as they fell to St. Cloud Tech 3-2 Thursday.
“Rocori is a good team and a good program. They always have been,” Warriors head coach Trent Grams said. “Last night, we played until the end like today, but we came up short in both instances.”
The Spartans put three runs up in the top of the second inning off Brainerd’s starter Matthew Karlson.
After a leadoff walk and single, Karlson balked to put runners on second and third.
Another walk loaded the bases and Rocori’s Luke Humbert drove in the first run on a fielder’s choice.
With two outs, Spartans’ leadoff hitter Jayden Philippi ripped his second hit of the game, a two-RBI triple, to give Rocori a 3-0 lead. Philippi finished 2-4 but reached base each time.
“I think he’s got maybe two, three hits on the year in the two games, but I think he’s gotten on base every time,” Illies said. “When you can do that with your leadoff hitter, especially a guy like him who can run, it’s an ingredient for success.”
Karlson lasted two innings and walked four while giving up three hits and three earned runs.
“We talked about his tempo and pace,” Grams said. “We wanted him to be more in charge on the hill. He’s got great stuff and when he’s in control and throwing strikes he’s a tough pitcher to beat.”
Rocori added another run in the top of the third on a Joel Sowada sacrifice fly.
Fuchs retired eight in a row before Brainerd’s Harry Carlson reached on an error in the fourth inning to give Brainerd its first base runner since the first.
Carlson came around to score on an error by Rocori’s second baseman who dropped a pop-up with runners on first and third.
Carter Springer pitched two scoreless innings in relief for the Warriors in the fourth and fifth innings, but ran into trouble in the sixth.
Philippi hit a slow hopper right back to the mound with a runner on third and one out, but Springer struggled to handle the ball and the run scored.
“I wish he could have that ground ball back,” Grams said. “That could’ve been a 4-1 game still with two outs and a runner on first. Instead everything kind of opened up a bit. But he battled and threw strikes and was clean in a couple of innings.”
With runners on second and third with two outs in the inning, Rocori’s Tanner Rausch ripped his second double of the game to drive in two more Spartan runs.
Brainerd got one back in the bottom of the sixth when Johnathan Benson ripped an RBI double. Benson finished 2-3 as the only Warrior to have a multiple-hit game.
Carlson scored his second run and reached on a dropped third strike.
“We need to put the ball in play more,” Grams said. “We watched Rocori as a perfect example of how to approach with two strikes. We need to be the same way. If we do that we will be on the good end of these games too.”
Brainerd will get its next chance for its first win Tuesday, April 20, against Bemidji.
“We’ll keep getting better in practice and keep helping each other,” Grams said. “We got to clean up a few things, but we are still very excited to be out here and we want to win.”
Rocori 7 6 1
Brainerd 2 3 3
WP: Cole Fuchs. LP: Matthew Karlson. 2B: Brd-Johnathan Benson; Roc-Tanner Rausch (2). 3B: Roc-Jayden Philippi.
Rocori 7, Warriors 2
Key: Cole Fuchs silenced Brainerd’s bats allowing three hits in six innings pitched.
Conference: Brd 0-2, Roc 2-0.
Overall: Brd 0-2, Roc 2-0.
Next: Brainerd at Bemidji 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 20.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.