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Section 8-3A Baseball: Brainerd roars past Bemidji and into title game

ST. CLOUD -- With one potent swing, Nate DeChaine set a powerful tone for the Brainerd Warriors. The Brainerd catcher planted a titanic 2-run homer over an advertising sign in right field in the bottom of the first inning and his teammates joined...

ST. CLOUD - With one potent swing, Nate DeChaine set a powerful tone for the Brainerd Warriors.

The Brainerd catcher planted a titanic 2-run homer over an advertising sign in right field in the bottom of the first inning and his teammates joined the hit parade as the Warriors roared to a 10-4 win over the Bemidji Lumberjacks in the winners’ bracket of the Section 8-3A tournament Tuesday at Putz Field.

Right fielder Taylor Streiff and shortstop Tory Miller had monster days to propel top-seeded Brainerd into Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against the winner between No. 3 Alexandria and No. 2 Bemidji. Those teams play at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Putz.

A second championship game, if necessary, would be played at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Putz.

Streiff finished 2-for-3 with five RBIs. He crushed a 2-run triple in the fifth and a mammoth 3-run homer in the sixth. Miller finished 3-for-4 with an RBI triple in the sixth to help Brainerd’s TJ Graumann win a duel of left-handers against Bemidji’s Ryan Hirt.

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“I was pretty proud of our kids today,” Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said. “We’ve been preparing for three days to face a lefty, and I imagine (the Lumberjacks) have, too. That might be the reason that two pretty good lefties gave up some hits and runs today.

“I would like to thank all the guys who came and threw left-handed batting practice. (Junior varsity coach) Mike Shogren was there. He got hit in the lip in practice - it came off the screen - but he kept pitching. He probably threw about 100 pitches. (Assistant sophomore coach) Drew Boland was pitching batting practice every day. That really helped us.”

Brainerd, which had lost to the hard-throwing Hirt 4-2 in the final game of the regular season May 22, jumped on him right away thanks to DeChaine. With one out, Miller singled and stole second. With two out, DeChaine hammered a fastball for his team-high fifth home run and his team-high 30th and 31st RBIs.

“We saw him our sophomore year, at least a couple of us did, in Legion,” DeChaine said. “A couple of us put some pretty good swings on him up in Bemidji. He was throwing hard. I don’t know if it was the backdrop of the field but we just couldn’t pick him up up there. Here I know I could see the ball pretty well, and obviously Streiff could see the ball pretty well. He had a day.

“We just came around as a team today. We had a lot of guys up and talking. Everyone was yelling in the dugout. That’s a really big momentum thing at the plate. You can feel the rush coming, the adrenaline. It’s something that just picks everyone up.”

Graumann pitched 6.2 innings to raise his record to a team-best 7-1. Through six innings he had allowed just two runs on five hits.

The Lumberjacks scored twice in the seventh on an RBI single by Collin Rutledge and run-scoring double by Hirt before Scearcy summoned Dillon Solid to the hill.

As he has all season, the senior right-hander responded with another quality effort. With Hirt in scoring position, Solid got Tom Revering to pop-up to end the game.

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“He will hit his spots every single time,” DeChaine said of Solid. “I don’t think I’ve seen a kid with that much control of his fastball. It doesn’t even matter who he’s facing as long as he’s throwing his fastball for a strike. He’s planting it on the inside or the outside corner. No matter where I set up he’s hitting that spot. He’s been a big part for us.”

Graumann finished his day with eight strikeouts and four walks. He allowed seven hits and four earned runs. He got out of a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout in the second. He stranded Lumberjacks in scoring position in the third and fourth.

“TJ pitched well for the most part,” DeChaine said. “There’s a couple things he could have improved on. He could have hit a couple spots here and there, but he got the outs he needed to. He made the pitches when it counted. That was the big thing.”

Eric Fitzgerald’s RBI double in the third pulled Bemidji to 2-1.

Streiff smoked his 2-run triple to right-center in the fifth for a 4-1 Warriors lead and he scored on a passed ball.

Tony Geerdes’ RBI single in the Bemidji sixth pared the Warriors’ lead to 5-2.

Right-hander Matt Morgan replaced Hirt to start the sixth and the Warriors hung up five runs. Miller slashed his run-scoring triple to the gap in left-center and Drew Sannes lofted a sacrifice fly to center for a 7-2 Brainerd edge. After a walk and single by Logan McElfresh, who finished 2-for-3, Streiff smashed his 3-run shot off the top of the scoreboard in left.

“I made the statement that three runs probably would win this game,” Scearcy said, “but it didn’t turn out that way. The wind was blowing out. That makes a lot of difference.”

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Warriors 10, Bemidji 4

The key: Brainerd hit two triples and two home runs

Overall: Brd 20-3, Bem 16-5

Next: Bemidji vs. Alexandria in Section 8-3A losers bracket, Municipal Athletic Complex, St. Cloud, 5 p.m. Wednesday; Bemidji/

Alexandria winner vs. Brainerd for championship 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

 

Bemidji 001 001 2 ­- 4 7 0

Brainerd 200 035 x - 10 11 2

Bemidji: Ryan Hirt, Matt Morgan (6) and Tom Revering.

Brainerd: TJ Graumann, Dillon Solid (7) and Nate DeChaine.

WP: Graumann (7-1).

LP: Hirt.

2B: Bem-Eric Fitzgerald, Revering, Hirt

3B: Brd-Taylor Streiff, Tory Miller

HR: Brd-DeChaine, Streiff

SB: Bem-Revering; Brd-Miller, Paul Augustinack, Logan McElfresh, Logan Madsen

SF: Brd-Drew Sannes

RBIs: Bem-Fitzgerald, Tony Geerdes, Collin Rutledge, Hirt; Brd-DeChaine 2, Streiff 5, Miller, Sannes

LOB: Bem 8, Brd 7

 

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at mike.bialka@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark .

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