BASEBALL: Alexandria ends Bemidji’s season with playoff win
ST. CLOUD — Alexandria scored seven runs in the fourth inning — five unearned due to three Bemidji errors — and that outburst helped lift the Cardinals to an 8-3 victory in Wednesday’s Section 8-3A elimination final at Putz Field.
Wednesday’s result ended Bemidji’s season and vaulted Alexandria into the section championship series against top-seeded Brainerd.
That series began late Wednesday. If the Cardinals won, the teams would stage a rematch today. If Brainerd prevailed, the Warriors will represent the section at the state Class 3A tournament.
A poor defensive inning by the second-seeded Lumberjacks proved to be the difference Wednesday as third-seeded Alexandria took a 7-0 lead in the fourth and BHS couldn’t recover.
The big inning began with a single by Mitch Thompson off Bemidji pitcher Collin Rutledge and early in the next at-bat Thompson broke for second and should have been picked off. Thompson escaped, however, when Bemidji had trouble with the relay and he stayed at second when Bemidji’s infield misplayed Cody McLaughlin’s ground ball.
Parker Bowden bunted the runners to second and third and an intentional walk to Zach Peterson loaded the bases.
Ben Kluver followed with a 2-run single and Casey Hammerback plated Peterson with another single. After a fielder’s choice and an errant throw that prevented the Jacks from recording another out on the play, Toby Helgeson was awarded first when his bat contacted the glove of catcher Tom Revering. Alexandria’s Parker Revering then delivered the killing blow with a grand slam.
“Collin pitched an amazing game but when you give a team extra outs, bad things are going to happen,” BHS coach Mike Fogelson said. “Alexandria played well today and took advantage of our mistakes.”
The Lumberjacks, who trailed in their first two section games but rallied for victories over Big Lake and St. Cloud Tech, tried to do the same and in the bottom of the fourth they started a comeback with two runs.
Rutledge and Ryan Hirt opened the frame with singles to right but Rutledge was forced at third on Revering’s grounder. Tony Geerdes, however, drilled a double to the fence which scored Hirt and Revering and closed the deficit to 7-2.
Both teams advanced runners into scoring position in the fifth but failed to bring them home. In Bemidji’s half of the inning Dan Johnson walked and Erik Fitzgerald reached on an error and, following shots to the outfield by James Hendricks and Rutledge that were run down by the defense, a two-out balk moved the runners up a base. The threat ended, however, when Hirt grounded to short.
BHS did score a run in the sixth when Geerdes reached and advanced to second on an infield throwing error, gained third on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch.
The Cardinals added an insurance tally in the seventh on a double, stolen base and bunt, and Bemidji’s season ended when the Jacks couldn’t muster a rally in the bottom half of the inning.
BHS managed only three hits, the third-inning singles by Rutledge and Hirt plus Geerdes’ double.
“I was shocked when I looked at the book and saw we only had three hits,” Fogelson said. “We did hit some lazers, especially in the fifth inning when Alex ran down those line shots.”
Alexandria starter Dan Kuhn struck out four and walked five. Riley Hvezda relieved Kuhn in the seventh and walked one of the four batters he faced.
Rutledge also worked into the seventh and was touched for all eight runs. Seth Anderson made his third appearance in the section playoffs and got the final two outs.
Bemidji ended its season 16-6 and four of the losses were to Brainerd and Alexandria, including the two playoff setbacks.
“The reality is that we lost to two very good baseball teams,” Fogelson said. “Alexandria is very tough 1 through 9 in its lineup and whichever team represents the section at state will make some noise.
“We had a great year,” the coach continued. “In my 10 seasons with the program this year’s team had the second-best winning percentage. We won a lot of games and we did it with only three seniors. The guys did a nice job representing our program and finishing in the top three in this section is something we can be proud of.”
Alexandria 8, Bemidji 3
Alexandria 000 700 1 - 8 7 2
Bemidji 000 201 0 - 3 3 3
Kuhn (W), Hvezda (7) and Hammerback. K-4, BB-6
Rutledge (L), Anderson (7) and Revering. K-9, BB-4