ST. CLOUD - Bemidji's American Legion Post 14 baseball opener started a little later in the month than usual, and with good reason: Almost all of the players on the team went to the MSHSL state tournament this past weekend.
And it took Bemidji little time to get back into a familiar groove: Winning. By a lot of runs.
It only took Post 14 five innings to defeat Willmar Post 167 Thursday night in the opening game of the St. Cloud Tournament, topping Post 167 11-1.
Bemidji continues tournament play today with a noon game against hosts St. Cloud and a 5 p.m. game against Sauk Rapids.
On Thursday, Bemidji pounced on Willmar early, scoring five runs in the top of the first against pitcher Josh Warne.
Warne settled down in the second and third but Bemidji came back at him in the fourth, scoring four runs, and completed the rout with two in the fifth.
Connor McNallan led the way for Bemidji and was a home run short of the cycle. He had three hits on the night.
"He was raking," Bemidji coach Mike Fogelson said.
In all, Bemidji knocked in nine hits in the five innings. Sam Dwyer also singled twice, Zach Solheim tripled and Nick Connor and Mitchell Hendricks each doubled. Mason Bellew rounded out the Bemidji offense with a two-RBI single.
Willmar scored its only run in the fourth inning.
That Bemidji lit up the scoreboard was even more impressive considering that its top two hitters - Colin Leif and Cody Rutledge - didn't play. Both are competing in a Lions Club All-Star game this weekend.
"It didn't matter," Fogelson said. "The guys picked it up even without them."
On the mound for Bemidji, Solheim picked up the win with a two-hitter. He went 4 2/3 innings but couldn't get the last out due to pitch count limits. Mitch Hendricks came in to get the final out.
The tournament continues today and Saturday in St. Cloud.
Bemidji 11, Willmar 1 (5 innings)
Bemidji 500 42 - 11 9 1
Willmar 000 10 - 1 2 1
Solheim (W), Hendricks (5) and Buckanaga.
Warne (L) and Gunvalson.