On a dry day, the outcome may have been different, but the Brainerd Warriors took advantage of Moorhead's slippery play to post a regular-season ending 6-3 victory over the Spuds Friday, May 24, at Adamson Field in Brainerd.
Friday wasn't so much a game as it was a study session. The Section 8-4A seedings came out earlier Friday and these two teams will square off in the opening round. Next time the game will be played in Moorhead, however, as the Spuds landed the No. 3 seed and Brainerd was given the No. 6 seed.
"If it's on the schedule we're going to play it and that's the biggest thing," Warriors head coach Trent Grams said. "I think our kids, even though it was a little wet, we worked hard and we prepared the field.
"The biggest thing we wanted to do was just to get a look and see what they had. They wanted to, too. That's why they came down. That part helped. Our kids played hard and we just made a few more plays."
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Warriors 6, Moorhead 3
- Key: Five Spud errors turned into a six-run second for Warriors.
- Overall: Brd 13-7, Moor 12-7.
- Next: No. 6 Brained at No. 3 Moorhead in Section 8-4A opening round 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 29.
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Warriors pitcher Eric Martin proved he could handle the Spuds' bats as the senior struck out two, walked one and gave up just two hits over four innings. He also hit a batter in the fourth to load the bases. He then struck out Hayden Netland and got Noah Pilon to ground to third to end the threat.
Moorhead's Wyatt Gunkel, who finished 3-4 with two doubles and an RBI, made it to third on Martin in the second inning with no outs. He remained there as Martin retired the next three batters.
"Eric is not necessarily going to strike a lot of batters out," Grams said. "He's going to be around the zone. He changes speeds really, really well. He keeps hitters off balance, but he's also a pitcher where the other team is going to put it in play. We need to be on our toes ready to play.
"The kids really like playing defense behind Eric because they know he's going to keep them in it, working fast and around the plate."
It was Brainerd's turn to cause problems on the base paths, but they got a lot of help from Moorhead. Michael Laber laced a shot through the shortstop's legs. Eli Roberts laid down a successful bunt and made it to first after Moorhead pitcher Trey Feeney fielded the ball, but slipped as he was preparing to throw. Renzen Caughey then reached on an error by the first baseman to load the bases.
Sam Miller drove in a run and reached base thanks to another error and Josh Hukriede also reached on an error and drove in a run.
After five straight errors, Broc Peterson finally recorded a hit-a two-run single. He later scored on Brady Anderson's sacrifice fly, which was the first out of the inning.
The long inning didn't affect Martin.
"It was a long inning, but it didn't really hurt me," Martin said. "I don't mind it. I just go out and throw a few warmup pitches and I'm ready to go. Having the lead was nice, though. It didn't really change how I was pitching them, but it was nice to have."
Mason Argir relieved Martin in the fifth. He allowed all three Moorhead runs on two walks and two doubles. Quentin Hegg and Isaac Howe both walked. Sterling Haphey hit an RBI double, Chrisanto D'Agostino drove in a run on a ground out and Gunkel hit one of his doubles for a 6-3 score.
Brady Anderson pitched the final two innings for the save. He gave up one hit and one walk and struck out two.
"It was Eric's turn to pitch so he was going to throw no matter what," Grams said. "We knew we weren't going to throw him a ton. Our goal was to get him out of there before the third time through the lineup for Moorhead. He got his work in."
Brainerd managed just five hits. Gunnar Wicklund doubled to open the fifth. Laber followed with a single to put runners on the corners. Laber stole second, but that's as close as either got to scoring.
Sam Miller opened the sixth with a single. Hukriede pushed him to second and Peterson walked, but Brainerd couldn't add to its lead.
The Warriors improved to 13-7 overall in Grams' first regular season as head coach. Martin said the win was key for the postseason.
"I think winning today was important," Martin said. "It gives us confidence. We know we can play with these guys. And we're playing good baseball right now. We've won two out of our last three games."
Brainerd played five games this week and finished 3-2. Moorhead, however, has lost its last five.
"The win means a lot because you always want to be playing good baseball at the end of the season when you turn it over into the postseason," Grams said. "I think that's kind of the confidence we just gained with 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids. We're playing well. We're paying the right way and now we need to carry it over into the postseason."
For more photos, go to https://bit.ly/2Qow7t4.
Moorhead 3 6 4
Brainerd 6 5 1
WP: Eric Martin. LP: Trey Feeney. 2B: Brd-Gunar Wicklund; Moor-Wyatt Gunkel. HBP: Moor-Kai Holm. Sac: Brd-Eli Roberts, Josh Hukriede. Sac fly: Brd-Brady Anderson, SB: Brd Michael Laber, Roberts; Moor-Gunkel. LOB: Brd 6, Moor 7.