BEMIDJI - A year ago Bemidji surprised its section peers by taking the 8-3A title and advancing to the state meet.
This spring, however, the Lumberjacks will not have the luxury of hiding in the bushes.
Seeded No. 1 in the section and ranked No. 1 in Minnesota's QRF ratings, Bemidji will begin defense of its Section 8-3A crown 3 p.m. Monday at the BSU diamond against either No. 8 Sauk Rapids or No. 9 Moorhead.
Those teams will square off at BSU at noon on Monday and the winner will earn the unenviable task of facing the Jacks.
With a 19-1 overall record Bemidji enters the postseason ranked No. 1 in the state's QRF ratings. The Jacks accumulated 142.1 QRF points during the regular season while Red Wing finished at 18-1 and had 137.6 points.
Hill-Murray (16-3) was third in the QRF chase with 129.8 while St. Cloud Apollo ended fourth with 128.8 points and an 18-1 record.
Apollo is seeded No. 2 in Section 8-3A and, if the QRF rankings hold true, Bemidji and Apollo will tangle June 2 in St. Cloud in the section's winner's bracket final.
Rocori (14-6) earned the section's third seed while St. Michael-Albertville (13-7) is the fourth seed.
Those three teams will join BHS as hosts for Monday's section playoff action. Monday's survivors will head to St. Cloud for noon games on June 2.
Unlike the 8-3A softball tournament, which rewards the highest remaining seed with home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the baseball tournament shifts to St. Cloud after the second round.
Each year the Brainerd, Moorhead and Bemidji coaches plead their case about the unfairness of the situation but each year they are out-voted by the other section teams.
That comes as no surprise because Sauk Rapids, Alexandria, St. Cloud Tech, Monticello, Sartell, Big Lake, St. Michael-Albertville, St. Cloud Apollo and Rocori all are within a Cody Rutledge home run of the diamond and having Bemidji, Moorhead and Brainerd always make the long road trips while they play in their back yard is a huge advantage.
Ryan Hirt will take the hill on Monday. The sophomore is 7-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 46 innings of work.
Cody Jenkins has a 3.35 ERA and a 5-0 record in 37.2 innings and Drew Peterson is 3-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 19 innings.
Mitchell Hendricks has been Bemidji's top reliever and the senior is 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 26 innings on the mound.
Offensively the Jacks have a team batting average of .375. Leading the attack is Rutledge with a .492 average. His 31 RBI is second in the state, bettered only by Justin Anderson of West Lutheran who has 32. Rutledge also is second statewide with six home runs. Steve Serratore of Rochester Mayo has seven.