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Baseball: Warriors rally for walk-off win

Brainerd Warrior Josh Hukriede hits the ball Tuesday, May 14, against the Sauk Rapids Storm at Adamson Field. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Cousins Konnor and Gunnar Wicklund each played key roles in helping the Brainerd Warriors rally for three runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 7-6 Central Lakes Conference victory over the Sauk Rapids Storm Tuesday, May 14, at Adamson Field in Brainerd.

Konnor Wicklund came off the bench to belt a game-tying, two-run double with no outs in the seventh. Gunnar Wicklund came to bat next and singled over the left fielder's head to drive in Michael Laber from third base for the walk-off victory.

"I like how we fought hard to the end tonight," said Brainerd coach Trent Grams, whose team trailed 6-4 heading into its final at bats. "We play with the understanding that the other team has to make three outs (in the seventh). We got the first guy (Seth Vagts) on with a walk and we felt better. Then the second guy (Brady Anderson) walks and we felt even better."

The Warriors top hitter, Michael Laber, then walked to load the bases with no outs. That's when Grams looked to the bench for a pinch hitter in Konnor Wicklund.

"Konnor is a kid who battles hard and is ready when it's his turn," Grams said. "He understands that he might get a chance during the game, no matter when it is. He warmed up and was ready to go. I didn't bring him in because he's a (left-handed hitter). It was more about his ability to drive the ball."

Konnor Wicklund did just that as he took the first pitch from reliever Tyler Hemker for a ball and then drilled the next pitch for a double just inside the left field line to score Vagts and Anderson to tie it at 6-6.

"That was my first hit as a pinch hitter," said Konnor Wicklund, a junior who had one hit and two walks going into the game. "I wanted to take the first pitch and I got the call to watch (the second pitch). But it was looking good so I swung. I knew the ball would land fair, although it was tailing a bit."

The double advanced Laber to third base, where he scored the winning run on Gunner Wicklund's single. It was Gunnar Wicklund's second hit and second RBI of the game.

The Warriors, who lead the conference standings with eight points (7-3 overall), have now won twice since suffering a frustrating 14-1 home loss to Monticello Friday, May 10.

"Hopefully, this win helps us finish the week strong," Grams said. "We made some mistakes. So tomorrow can't come soon enough so we can practice and shore up a few things."

Sauk Rapids coach Jeff Hille was understandably frustrated after the loss.

"We walked three guys in the last inning and that's the game," said Hille, whose team edged Brainerd 3-2 April 22. "Sometimes we show up and play defense and some days we don't. We played better defense today. We just need to finish games."

The Warriors grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Broc Peterson and Vagts both singled and scored on wild pitches.

The Storm answered with three runs in the second, sparked by Nick Schmitt's two-run double. Brainerd tied it 3-3 in the third when Peterson singled, stole second base and scored on Renzen Caughey's single. Sauk Rapids regained a 4-3 lead in the fifth as Cole Fuecker led off with a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly off starting pitcher Sam Miller.

The Warriors again tied it 4-4 in the bottom of the inning as Brady Anderson reached on an infield single and eventually scored on Gunnar Wicklund's double.

The Storm grabbed a 6-4 lead in the top of the seventh as Hemker led off with a walk. Miller was then relieved on the mound by Colby Watland, who retired the next hitter, but then surrendered a perfectly executed hit-and-run single to Brady Pesta to give the visitors a 5-4 lead. Trygve Hanson walked and Mason Argir, who earned the pitching win, entered the game with one out. Brady Posch's sacrifice fly scored Pesta with the sixth run, but on the play Hanson was thrown out trying to reach third.

Brainerd then rallied for the win in the bottom of the inning.

Brock Peterson was 3-3 while Brady Anderson also had two hits. Fuecker and Hanson had two hits each for Sauk Rapids. Both starting pitchers went six innings. Miller allowed two earned runs while striking out four. Hanson allowed five earned runs with three strikeouts.

Sauk Rapids 6 7 2

Brainerd 7 11 1

WP: Mason Argir. LP: Tyler Hemker. 2B: SR-Cole Fuecker 2, Nick Schmitt; Brd-Gunnar Wicklund, Ben Jones, Konnor Wicklund.

BREAKOUT/INFOBOX

Warriors 7, Sauk Rapids 6

Key: Cousins Konnor and Gunnar Wicklund sparked Brainerd's 3-run comeback win in the bottom of seventh.

Conf: Brd 7-3, SR 5-2

Overall: Brd 9-4, SR 5-8

Next: Brainerd at Duluth East 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16