Blue Ox reaches region playoffs with win
The Bemidji Blue Ox rebounded from a 4-2 opening-game loss Sunday to beat Warroad 3-1 in the nightcap and secure a berth in the Region12-C baseball playoffs.
The opening series matched the No. 2 and 3 seeds from the North Border Conference.
The Blue Ox will now open a best-of-three series with top-seeded Roseau to determine the league's seedings for the region. That tournament also will include the Norman-Polk League's top two teams plus teams from the Moorhead area.
The Ox again battled the lack of a sustained attack but rode the right arm of Justin Huether to take the deciding game.
Huether, who blanked Warroad 3-0 in the regular season league game here earlier this month and was the winner in the playoff opener at Warroad, was in command through most of the game.
Matt Fossen came on in relief to get the final two outs to preserve the win.
With announced starter Cody Gross out of town, Manager Chris Conway dug deep into his mound staff for the opener, sending lefthander Sam Saccoman to the hill.
He dominated the Muskies through the first four innings before running out of gas suddenly in the fifth.
Bemidji had scored a run in the first when Thor Josefson doubled, moved up on a ground out and scored on Nate Brown's sacrifice fly to center.
The Ox stranded a runner in the at third in the third and banged into a double pay in the forth.
But Saccoman stranded runners in each of the first four frame fanning six.
He got the first two batters to start the fifth before suddenly losing sight of the plate.
Three straight walks filled the bases and David Larson's single plated a run. The tying run crossed on a wild pitch.
Another walk and hit batter forced in the third run before Fossen could get to the mound. He ended the frame quickly and pitched a scoreless sixth.
Bemidji got back into contention in that frame when Brown walked and scored on a Huether single.
But that was to be the last threat against Slaudyn Nelson who blanked Bemidji on one hit the last three frames.
The Muskies added run in the seventh.
Larson's double, a walk and Nic Gray's single filled the bases with no outs.
Shane Friesner's tapper infront of the plate was turned into a 2-3 double play but Bryce Demolee, who was on second, never stopped running to beat the return throw to the plate and score.
Larson had two of the six Warroad hits off the two Blue Ox hurlers who fanned six and walked eight. Nelson had three strikeouts and two walks in going the distance, spacing seven hits, two each by Colton Smith and Huether.
That left the regional berth up to the rematch between Huether and Demolee.
Huether worked out of a second inning jam, stranding two.
But Warroad scored in the third when Allen McBride singled, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored with two gone when Adam, Knebel dropped a bloop hit into short center field. Larson followed with a third hit but a force out ended play.
After that. Huether allowed four hits but breezed into the ninth.
Brown took over the offense, following Smith's single in the fourth with a home run over the right field fence to send Bemidji ahead 2-1. It was his third homer of the playoffs.
The same pair connected again in the sixth when Smith singled, stole second and scored on Brown's single.
Huether breezed into the ninth before running into trouble.
Demolee singled to open the frame but was forced at second by Gray.
Friesner looped a single into short right sending Gray to second and bringing back Fossen to the hill.He walked Brent Culleton to fill the bases.
But he induced McBride to pop to short and got Nelson on a called third strike to end the game and Warroad's season.
Bemidji had only six hits three by Smith and two by Brown. Warroad had nine, three by Larson.
Huether raised his record to 2-0.
The split left the team at 11-13. The Blue Ox and Roseau divided their four games this summer.