High School Baseball: Top-seeded Knights end Warriors' postseason run
StMA 6, Warriors The key: The Knights scored five times in the fifth Overall: Brainerd finishes 14-10, StMA 23-2 Next: No. 1 St. Michael-Albertville vs. No. 2 Maple Grove in Section 8-4A championship game at Cold Spring 6 p.m. Wednesday, second g...
StMA 6, Warriors
The key: The Knights scored five times in the fifth
Overall: Brainerd finishes 14-10, StMA 23-2
Next: No. 1 St. Michael-Albertville vs. No. 2 Maple Grove in Section 8-4A championship game at Cold Spring 6 p.m. Wednesday, second game if necessary 8:15 p.m. Wednesday.
COLD SPRING - With just two starters returning, few probably would have given the Brainerd Warriors a shot to be in contention for the Section 8-4A championship this season.
But after a 12-8 regular season, the Warriors were. They received the No. 5 seed in the 8-4A tournament and turned the section upside down in the first two playoff games, beating No. 4 Rogers 11-6 and stunning the top-seeded and fifth-ranked St. Michael-Albertville Knights 3-0.
Then reality began to catch up to the Warriors. In the winners' bracket Saturday, Brainerd was beaten 5-1 by No. 2 Maple Grove. Its season ended Tuesday with a 6-0 loss to the Knights in the loser's bracket.
Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy is always disappointed to see a season end, but was proud of how this team was a few games away from winning a section title.
"You know me. I may be the poorest loser anybody can ever meet," Scearcy said. "(Losing) doesn't get any easier after you've been in it a while. In fact, it probably gets harder because you spend more time dwelling on what if we had done this right here.
"In a game like this, playing a team that good, it got away from us a little, but you can't go back and say 'Boy if we just made that one catch' or 'If we would have put that ball in play then we would have won the game.' They're an excellent team."
Tuesday, the Knights' Travis Brown was outstanding. The senior lefty allowed only a Bryce Flanagan double in the fourth then retired the last 11 Warriors in order. Brown permitted only three baserunners all game and only one reached third base.
"He was on today," Knights coach Paul Schumm said. "I think he was a little upset at first when he was not getting some of those questionable, borderline calls. He's such a veteran leader for us. That stuff just doesn't faze him. I think it makes him stronger actually when he's not getting those."
Leading 1-0, the Knights broke open the game with a 5-run fifth. Catcher Jack Kelly, who's bound for Northwestern University and the Big Ten, contributed a run-scoring single, Jack Fiedler drove in a run on a fielder's choice and Ethan Krehbel-Valoaga delivered the dagger-a 2-run triple to right.
"He's hitting probably .450 to .460," Schumm said of Krehbel-Valoaga. "He's just a solid hitter. He's a senior. Going into the season, we were expecting big things, but we weren't sure what we were going to get."
The Knights, who have won 11 of their last 12, snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth. Cody Kelly led off with a double to left. Fiedler put down a bunt and Cody Kelly came around to score from second when Warrior second baseman Will Peabody, who was covering first on the play, couldn't handle catcher Mac Brink's throw. The ball glanced off Peabody's glove into short right field allowing Cody Kelly to score.
The Knights missed an opportunity in the third. With one out and Kyle Hayden at third base, Travis Brown dropped down a squeeze bunt that Brainerd pitcher McCale Peterson fielded. Peterson flipped to Brink for the second out and ended the inning with a groundout.
After his double in the fourth, Flanagan moved to third on a groundout, but Brown retired the side on a pop-up.
Peterson worked 4.2 innings Tuesday. He allowed eight hits and five earned runs with two walks and a strikeout. Flanagan finished, allowing a run on one hit.
Five days earlier, Peterson beat the Knights with a 1-hit complete game. He struck out seven and walked three.
"They were the best team in the state going into our first game with them," Scearcy said, "and we got almost a superhuman effort by McCale in that game. He was coming back with four days rest, which normally is about right, but he wasn't as sharp today. They just had one big inning although it turned out one run would have been enough.
"Their pitcher was very good. That's their ace. Everybody's got ace lefties, everybody but us. We don't even have a left-hander.
"All our seniors got in to play today. The kids did their best. I'm always disappointed when we lose, but I'm not disappointed in our kids-not at all."
Schumm said the playoff loss to Brainerd motivated the Knights.
"Their pitcher threw a hell of a game the first game against us," he said of Peterson. "Yeah, we didn't swing the bats like we can, but it was because he was on. He made us look foolish that game. He did a really nice job that game. The way he threw lit a little fire under us that we weren't going to let him 1-hit us again."
Brainerd 000 000 0 - 0 1 2
STMA 000 150 x - 6 9 2
Brainerd: McCale Peterson, Bryce Flanagan (5) and Mac Brink.
STMA: Travis Brown and Jack Kelly.
2B: Brd-Bryce Flanagan; STMA-Cody Kelly
3B: STMA-Ethan Krehbel-Valoaga
SB: STMA-Jack Fiedler
Sac: STMA-Nick Dinkel
RBIs: STMA-Jack Kelly, Jack Fiedler, Krehbel-Valoaga 2
LOB: Brd 3, STMA 6