Brainerd mounted a big lead Tuesday, June 1, but saw the sixth-seeded Moorhead Spuds send the tying run to the plate with two outs in the top of the seventh in the opening round of the Section 8-4A tournament.
The Warriors survived with a 9-5 win at Adamson Field when Warriors’ pitcher Mya Tautges struck out Spuds’ hitter Emilee Anderson.
The Spuds trailed 9-3 headed into the seventh, but with four straight singles and a throwing error, they plated two runs to leave Brainerd sweating until the final out.
“We talked about in practice how this is the time of year that everyone raises their game and everyone should be playing a little better,” Warriors head coach Shane Jordan said. “We do have a lot of positives to take from this game, but to compete at the level we think we should we all have to play a little bit better.”
The three-seeded Warriors advance in the winner’s bracket of the section tournament and will play at No. 2 seed Rogers Thursday, June 3.
Olivia Tautges started the opening-round game in the circle for Brainerd and struck out seven batters her first time through the Spuds’ lineup.
“It really takes a lot of pressure off our defense when she does that,” Brainerd senior and second baseman Hillary Hoelz said. “We just have to be ready when they do put the ball in play. But when she comes out and strikes out that many girls it takes the pressure off.”
Brainerd jumped on Moorhead’s starter Avery Babolian for two runs in the first and six runs in the third to take an 8-1 lead.
“We knew that we had to come out with a lot of energy and I think we did a really good job with that,” Hoelz said. “It’s really important for our team that we come out with energy because it really sets the tone of the game.”
Josie Kappes led off the game for Brainerd with a single up the middle of Moorhead’s drawn-in infield. She stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on an Emma Tautges groundout to first.
Olivia Tautges was intentionally walked in front of Emma Tautges and advanced to second on Emma’s RBI. Olivia Tautges then scored on a single by Karlie Anderson.
Moorhead got one run off Olivia Tautges in the third inning in a two-out rally that featured a single and double to make it 2-1 Brainerd.
The Warriors responded with six runs in the third. The rally started when ninth-hitter Meghan Smith hit a slow roller to first and the Spuds’ first baseman failed to tag Smith.
After Smith reached on the odd play, Kappes hit a bunt single and Brainerd showed off its aggressive baserunning by having Smith run from first to third on the bunt. The gamble paid off as Moorhead threw the ball away and allowed Smith to not only reach third, but score on the error. Kappes ended up at second.
“Being aggressive on the bases is so important,” Jordan said. “It puts so much pressure on the defense. We always say that if they make a great play and get us out we just tip our cap to them, but we are going to challenge them and take some chances to make them field, throw and catch it to get us out.”
Kappes scored on a wild pitch with Mya Tautges at the plate. Mya Tautges followed with a triple and scored on an Olivia Tautges double. Emma Tautges followed both of her sisters’ hits with an RBI single of her own.
Anderson was then hit by a pitch and the first six Brainerd batters reached base in the third with no outs. Both Emma Tautges and Anderson scored on wild pitches to make it 8-1. Brainerd sent 11 to the plate in the big six-run third inning.
“When we have those big innings it’s huge for our team,” Hoelz said. “I think it takes the pressure off us and we are more relaxed at the plate.”
Brainerd made it 9-1 in the fourth inning after Mya Tautges singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on an Olivia Tautges single.
Moorhead started its comeback in the top of the fifth. The Spuds plated two runs and had the bases loaded with one out. A ground ball hit the runner between first and second. Then a groundout to Hoelz at second base got Brainerd out of the jam.
Mya Tautges entered in relief in the sixth inning and struck out four in two innings. Olivia Tautges earned the win and finished with 11 strikeouts which give her a team-high 57 on the season.
“I thought she was hitting her spots really well,” Jordan said of Olivia Tautges. “They were giving us some pitches on the outside and she was hitting those spots. She got a little frustrated when they started to put the ball in play, but she’s such a good competitor I’d love to have her in the circle for any game.”
Moorhead 5 10 5
Brainerd 9 10 3
WP: Olivia Tautges. LP: Avery Babolian. 2B: Brd-Olivia Tautges, M-Maddie Spaeth, Taylor Kressin. 3B: Brd-Mya Tautges.
Warriors 9, Moorhead 5
Key: Olivia Tautges’ 11 strikeouts paces Brainerd to an opening-round win in sections
Overall: Brd 18-3.
Next: No. 3 Brainerd at No. 2 Rogers 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 3.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.