Big weekend games ahead for Mudcats, Blue Ox
Bemidji's Mudcats and Blue Ox face critical weekends with the Cats still carrying faint hopes of annexing a league title while the Blue Ox faces elimination from the Region 16-C tournament.
The Mudcats head east to face Hibbing in a twin bill today and continue farther east to take on the first place Duluth Xpress Sunday.
Bemidji takes a 7-3 league record into play after being upended by Grand Rapids 1-0 Tuesday.
Duluth was 8-0 at last report though league results continue to be hard to come by.
Hibbing is third trailed by Nashwauk and Grand Rapids.
The Cats, who have been fighting a lack of players all summer, have shrunk to 16-14 overall but on their good days are still a potent team.
Manager Neil Huewe is likely to save Tyler Norland (2-2) and Paul Fenner (3-2) for the Sunday pair and go with Matt Stasch (2-2), Doug Peterson (2-4) or Keenan Humphrey (2-2) against the Miners.
He hopes to have most of his top players back on the diamond, particularly shortstop Dan Bauer and catcher-infielder Dan Nolan who have been missing the past several weeks.
The Blue Ox will begin play in the revamped Region 16-C playoffs at Warroad, facing the Muskies in the first two games of a best-of-three series.
Should a third game be needed, it would be played here tomorrow at 2.
Originally this weekend was to have been the league playoffs with Bemidji, Roseau and Warroad battling for the Northwest Border Conference crown and Ada, Crookston and East Grand Forks for the Norman-Polk title.
But East Side failed to field a team this year and Roseau withdrew from the playoffs for lack of players.
The four remaining teams were then advanced to the regional and the competition expanded to three-game sets.
This weekend's two winners will clinch state berths but will play next weekend in another best-of-three set for position.
The second series this weekend will have Crookston at Ada.
The Ox did not compete in last year's playoffs due to lack of players.
They are likely to use Matt Fossen (2-3), Bryan Jamieson (2-2) and Cody Gross (1-0) on the hill this weekend with Ryan Sullivan (2-1), Landon Harris (1-2) and Duane Beihn (1-0) also available.
Warroad won three of its four meetings with Bemidji this summer sweeping a season-opening double header 3-0 and 6-5 at Warroad and dividing two games here, losing 8-6 to Gross but winning 4-0 behind Adam Knebel in the second game.
The Ox went 2-2 with Ada and 1-1 with Crookston. They are 9-9 on the season.