BASEBALL: Bemidji, Brainerd split on final day of regular season; section top seed still unclear
BEMIDJI — It’s hard to determine which team will be No. 1 when the Section 8-3A tournament is seeded today, but after Thursday’s doubleheader at the BSU baseball diamond both Bemidji and Brainerd can stake a claim.
The regional rivals split their final doubleheader of the regular season Thursday, as Brainerd won a closer-than-the-score-indicates first game 12-2 before Bemidji bounced back in game two with a 4-2 victory.
Brainerd came into the game as the No. 1 team in the section QRF rankings but head coach Lowell Scearcy said he didn’t know how the final rankings would play out.
“We were below Bemidji yesterday and we were above them today,” he said. “So I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The Warriors finish the regular season 17-3, losing only to St. Cloud Apollo and Sartell-St. Stephen as well as the Lumberjacks.
Bemidji, meanwhile, finished 14-4 with just two losses in the section — the game-one loss against Brainerd and also a game against Alexandria, who came into Thursday behind Bemidji for third in the section.
BHS head coach Mike Fogelson said he likes where the Lumberjacks are at coming into the playoffs.
“We’re in good shape, I think,” he said. “I think we’ll be in the top three for sure. We were ahead of Alex by quote a few points coming into today.
“You play Brainerd, you sometimes even get a bump when you lose, since they’re so good. Getting one win against them makes us look a little better.”
On Thursday the Warriors took the first game 12-2 thanks, in part, to a seven-run seventh inning. The Lumberjacks entered the final frame trailing just 5-2, but handed Brainerd the game on a silver platter with a three-error, two-walk inning.
Taylor Streiff’s three-run homer off Bemidji relief pitcher Parker Lucas was the exclamation point on a long inning that saw 13 Brainerd batters come to the plate.
Although the Warriors put some big crooked number on the board in game 1, the Lumberjacks actually outhit Brainerd 8-6. Bemidji starter Collin Rutledge gave up just one hit through six innings but walked six and hit two more batters to take the loss.
Ryan Hirt had both Bemidji RBIs.
Hayden Bukowski threw five innings and got the win for Brainerd in game one.
“That first game was a lot closer than it appeared,” Fogelson said. “We just made a lot of mistakes.”
In game two, that wasn’t the case.
Seth Anderson and Hirt combined to give up two runs on six hits to help Bemidji earn the split.
“We made a lot less mistakes,” Fogelson said. “And seth just did a great job on the mound. Plus, he got us to Ryan. You get ryan on the mound in the sixth and seventh you’re in good shape.”
Brainerd’s Nate DeChaine hit a two-run homer in the top of the third inning for Brainerd’s only runs.
Otherwise, Anderson and Hirt shut down Brainerd’s offense. Anderson only struck out two but got Brainerd to put the ball in play, forcing nine flyouts.
Hirt got the two-inning save with three strikeouts.
The Lumberjacks manufactured all four of its runs and led right from the start of the game whenDaniel Johnson led off the first inning with a single. He went to second on a wild pitch then scored on a James Hendricks single.
In the second inning, Thomas Revering walked, stole second and scored on Lucas’ single.
Lucas came home on singles from Tyler Geerdes and Johnson.
After DeChaine’s homer cut it to 3-2, the Lumberjacks got a little insurance in the next inning. Hendricks walked and scored on a pair of singles to make it 4-2.
Fogelson said he’s glad the Lumberjacks were able to steal one from the Warrirors — it bodes well for them come playoff-time.
“Brainerd’s gonna be one of the teams,” he said. “They’re going to go deep into the playoffs and hopefully we can too.
“We’re playing good ball. We were lucky to get a chance to play a second game after the first game, because it wasn’t good. It’s nice to play a better second game. Now we’re feeling good about ourselves going into the playoffs.”
Scearcy said he would like to see his team hit as well as it had earlier this season but otherwise he liked what he’s seen from them.
“Hopefully we can turn it around in the next couple days,” he said. “We had a good regular season, but the whole key to the tournament is to go in playing your best ball.
“Our hitting’s been up and down so hopefully we can get on a run when we get into the playoffs.”
Brainerd 12, Bemidji 2
Brainerd 104 000 7 — 12 7 1
Bemidji 101 000 0 — 2 9 6
Bukowski (W), Solon (6) and DeChaine. K-8, BB-2.
Rudledge (L), Lucas (7) and Revering. K-5, BB-8, HBP-2.
Bemidji 4, Brainerd 2
Brainerd 002 000 0 — 2 6 1
Bemidji 121 000 x — 4 8 2
Sannes (L), Streiff (5) and DeChaine. K-6, BB-2, HPB-1.
Anderson (W), Hirt (6, S) and Revering. K-5, BB-0.