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Baseball: Bemidji Legion season opener Monday

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The Bemidji American Legion baseball team will open its new season tomorrow, hosting Park Rapids in a 5 p.m. double header at BSU.

They will be the first of six games this week, all at home. Thief River will be here Wednesday for two and Little Fall Thursday for another twin bill.

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That will be a sub-section test as well.

Brainerd and Nisswa will again round out the sub-section.

Bemidji will face all four in home and home twin bills with the first game in each instance counting toward the final standings.

Little Falls (7-1) is the defending champion. Bemidji tied for third at 3-5 last summer.

Mike Fogelson starts his eighth year at the helm, bringing a 127-77-1 record into play. He took his 2003 and 2006 teams to the state.

Last year he suffered his first losing season as Bemidji ended 14-20-1, gaining the district meet where it was ousted by Little Falls 10-5 in its last game.

Like the high school team earlier that year, a weak batting attack was a major problem all year.

That team ended a .269 but featured strong hurling which posted a 2.92 earned run average.

This will be a far younger team than played last summer. That unit had college performers Andrew Hengel and Matt Fossen as its mainstays.

This year's team will have no post graduate players.It also will have only four of this year's nine seniors from the Lumberjacks as Fogelson concentrates on the future.

Only five players are back from 2008.

They are led by Simon Anderson, Billy Statton and Derek Lofgren from this year's varsity senior class plus junior Josh Kane and soph Jeremiah Graves.

Anderson was 5-3 with a 1.91 earned run mark last summer, the only one of 11 hurlers back from that team.

Graves will join him as a mound regular this year after playing the infield last summer.

He hit .233 while Anderson ended at .257.

Lofgren will patrol the outfield returning a .214 average from the 2008 season.

Statton was a .273 hitter and will handle the receiving. Kane, who saw limited action, failed to bat last year. He was a regular on the VFW.

The Legion will carry only 13 players which could cause problems through a long season.

It will use VFW players when needed to fill holes.

That team has 15 on its roster.

Fortunately, 10 of the 13 have pitching experience.

Anderson and Graves will be joined by Tyler Follis, Tyler Tatro and Chad Head who saw starting action with the Lumberjacks this spring along with Kane, Cody Rutledge Luke Burns, Statton and Matt Hietala.

Nick Lee, Pau Voss and Lofgren are the only three non-hurlers.

Statton and Voss should provide solid catching with Hietala, Graves and Follis starters from the Jacks infield and Lee, Lofgren and Anderson from the outfield.

Rutledge will bolster both infield and outfield posts with Burns a middle infielder.

The team held two game condition scrimmages with the VFW last week winning both by small margins.

The Legion faces a 35-game slate should it gain the final round of the St. Cloud and Gopher Classic tournaments.

The sub-district will run July 14-17 with the district meet again at St. Cloud July 22-26.

New Ulm will host the state meet July 30-Aug. 2.

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Pioneer staff reports
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