Baseball: Bemidji VFW sweeps to nail down league title
The Bemidji VFW baseball team culminated a perfect second half of the season Monday, sweeping its final twin bill at East Grand Forks 14-0 and 10-2.
It lifted Brad Johnson's forces to 16-4 in league play and the No. 1 seed for the District tournament which opens Thursday at Detroit Lakes.
Third seeded Fergus Falls will face sixth ranked East Grand Forks in one game while fourth ranked Moorhead goes against fifth rated Detroit Lakes in the other.
Bemidji begins play Friday at 10 a.m. against the Moorhead-DL winner. Second seeded Perham plays at 1 against Fergus or East Grand Forks.
Should Bemidji lose, it would play an elimination game at 7. If it wins it plays in the winners bracket final Saturday at 4. The title game is Sunday.
Once 6-4 in the standings at mid year, Bemidji went 10-0 down the stretch to pull away from the field, sweeping Fergus, Moorhead and DL once and EGF twice.
Ryan Stevens pitched a two hitter in Monday's opener.
Bemidji closed out the game in five, scoring six in the second to take a 7-1 lead and adding four more in the third to put the game beyond recall.
The Vets banged out 14 hits with Kris Berndt getting three and Mitch Hendricks, Collin Leif, Matt Schneider and Jake Urban getting two, Booster Russ and Berndt had doubles.
The second game was closer with Bemidji scoring twice in the first and second and three times in the fourth and seventh.
The Vets had 18 hits off two EGF hurlers. Ernie Heifort allowed nine but kept them well spaced except for the fifth when the home team scored its two runs.
Berndt and Kevin Murphy had three hits and Hendricks, Chase Vogt, Leif, Urban and Cole Bardwell two.
Leif's and Bardwell's included doubles.
Bemidji continued its improved defense, making only one error in the two games.
It goes into tournament play with six quality starters in Schneider, (4-1), Stevens and Murphy (3-1),. Heifort (2-1),. Russ (2-0) and Urban (2-2) with Zach Solheim (2-0) and Vogt available for relief.
Bemidji has won the district tournament only once in the past eight years after claiming nine titles in the 1990's. Overall it has won 16 crowns since beginning the sport in 1980 when Frank Pelawa formed a team late in the summer for district play, the only team in the district, and went 1-2 at the state.
The winner of that game was lefthander Bryan Hickerson who went on to Major League fame with the San Francisco Giants and other teams. Overall, Bemidji is 19-9, the most wins in Johnson's four years at the helm and the most since Bemidji ended 30-12 in 2005 under Rick Looker and made its last state tournament trip.
Bemidji VFW 164-03--14--14--0
East Grand Forks 000-00--- 0-- 0--0
Stevens (3-1) and Leif
Osmundson, Blackwood (3) and Pagnac
Bemidji VFW 220-300-3---10--18--1
E. Grand Forks 000-020-0--- 2--9--3
Heifort (2-1) and Leif
Moser, Swanson (5) and Pagnac