Braham continued its mastery against Great River teams this season with a double-header sweep at Rush City last Friday. Those victories helped the Bombers clinch at least a share of the Great River championship for the first time since the back-to-back 2003 and 2004 seasons.
An 8-5 loss to East Central May 16 ruined the Bombers’ perfect conference record, but they can clinch the crown outright with a win at Isle May 23.
At Rush City May 13, Braham took Game 1 by a 13-4 score, with Cory Ambrose going the distance on the mound. Kyle Grell got the team on the board when he tripled and scored in the first inning.
Grell kept the pressure on the Tigers when he delivered a two-out single in the third, stole second and scored on Mike Strelow’s base hit up the middle. Sam Stigen made it 3-1 in the fourth after walking and later scoring on Ryan Fitzsimmon’s grounder which was misplayed at short.
Ambrose tossed a nice 1-2-3 fifth inning, then the Bombers exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the frame. Grell walked and Strelow was hit by a pitch to open the action. Nick Hammond reached on another error at short, and Stigen looped a run-scoring hit to center. Later, Casey Grell and Cory Ambrose induced bases-loaded walks, and Christian Towery added another run on catcher’s interference on a swing.
The Bombers could have ended the game by the 10-run rule at that point, but a called third strike and a groundout to short kept the Tigers alive. They added three runs in the sixth against Ambrose, but that was it for the damage.
Braham took Game 2 5-1 as K. Grell struck out 5 and allowed just 4 hits over six innings on the mound. Strelow tossed the seventh, striking out the final three Tigers to face him.
The Bomber bats had a tough time against RC’s Zack Peters, racking up just 6 hits. But they played heads-up ball to score runs.
“One play that stands out in my mind happened in the second inning,” said Bomber Coach Aitor Leniz. “Mike Strelow walked to lead off the inning. Nick Hammond laid down a beautiful bunt for a sacrifice. Mike noticed their rotation and realized nobody was at third, so he kept running to reach that base. The next batter grounded out to short which scored him. Then we had two consecutive doubles from our No. 7 and 8 hitters (A.J. Fealy and Adam Hendren) to put across another run.”
The Bombers made it 5-0 in the third inning by taking advantage of more RC blunders. Ambrose reached on an error, and Christian Towery reached on a strike-three passed ball. K. Grell singled in one run, then Strelow doubled home the team’s final two runs.
East Central 8, Braham 5
The Eagles snapped the Bombers 12-game GRC win streak (dating back to the end of last season) by paying back an earlier 8-6 loss this season.
Braham 10-1, 11-2; East Central 8-2, 12-2; Aitkin 8-4, 11-4; Ogilvie 6-4, 9-5; Hinckley-Fin. 6-4, 8-6; Pine City 4-7, 5-9; Isle 3-5, 3-8; Rush City 1-9, 1-10; Onamia 0-8, 0-9.