BHS baseball: Spirited season, postseason run ends at state
The stay at the state tournament may have been brief but the positives of making it to the Twin Cities after a 20-year hiatus should influence the Bemidji baseball team for years to come.
"This group of seniors has left a mark on the program," said BHS coach Mike Fogelson following Friday's 7-6 loss to Eden Prairie in the consolation semifinals. These seniors took us to state and led us to a school banner. It is the job of the next class of guys to take us further. And now they know what that will require."
Nerves and the unfamiliarity of the state-tournament pressure hampered the Lumberjacks during Thursday's 13-0 loss to Burnsville, last year's state runnerup, in the tournament's opening round. Friday against the defending champs, the Jacks returned to their customary style of play and almost came away with the win.
"We played our brand of baseball," Fogelson said. "I think it will be proven that we faced the top two teams in the tournament and on Friday we proved that we belonged at state."
The Lumberjacks, who finished the season 18-11, spotted the Eagles a 3-0 lead in the opening stanza but rallied within one run on three occasions.
BHS trailed 7-3 heading into the seventh but made things interesting by scoring three times and stranding the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first.
Eden Prairie, 22-6, touched Bemidji starting pitcher Tyler Follis for three runs in the lower first, bunching a walk, hit batter, three singles and a double-play grounder.
The 3-0 lead stood until the top of the fifth when the Lumberjacks began their rally with a pair of runs.
With one out Sam Dwyer, Dom Hayle, Mitchell Hendricks and Collin Leif had consecutive singles to plate one run and Follis coaxed a bases-loaded walk to score Hayle with the second.
The Eagles countered with a single tally in their half of the stanza on the strength of three singles but Zach Solheim's solo home run to right in the upper sixth drew Bemidji within 4-3.
Eden Prairie began the bottom of the sixth with a single and before three BHS pitchers could retire the side the Eagles scored three runs.
The Section 2 champions would need every one of those runs as the Lumberjacks staged a dramatic comeback in the seventh.
Hendricks started the rally with a double to the right-center gap and an error on Leif's grounder and a walk to Follis loaded the bases.
Cody Rutledge's single to right plated Hendricks and two outs later Solheim singled home pinch runner Nick Hovila and Follis.
With the tying run at second, however, the rally ended as Dwyer was retired on a ground ball to short.
"We were one at-bat away in the fifth and seventh innings from taking over," Fogleson said. "We came up a little short but it was fun to see us battle back. That's what we've been doing all year."
Follis worked 5+ innings on the Bemidji mound and was tagged with the loss. Jeremiah Graves relieved in the sixth and pitched to four batters before being hit in the leg with a one-hop liner. Ryan Stevens came in to record the final two outs.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a shot like that back at the pitcher," Fogelson said. "There was nothing Miah could do. Fortunately, it hit him just above the knee on the flesh and he's tough so I'm sure he'll be fine."
Solheim paced the offense with a home run, a single and three RBI. Hendricks had a double and a single while Follis contributed a triple.
"We haven't been down here for awhile and against Burnsville we didn't play our game," Fogelson said. "But on Friday the kids realized that, even though it's the state tournament, it's still just a baseball game.
"Now we know exactly what it takes to get to state and what it takes to do well at state. Next year, hopefully, we will be able to take our state experience to another level."
Bemidji 000 021 3 - 6 9 0
Eden Prairie 300 013 x - 7 12 1
Follis (L 4-3), Graves (6), Stevens (6) and Leif. K-1, BB-3
Rummele (W 8-1), Thonvold (6), Soderberg (7, S) and Halbran. K-12, BB-3