Complete team: Bemidji baseball players excelled in all phases of the game
BEMIDJI - Offense, pitching and defense are the keys to a successful baseball season and the Bemidji Lumberjacks excelled in all three phases this spring.
The result of that winning combination was a 25-3 record and second place in the state Class 3A tournament.
Throughout most of the season Bemidji's bats were unstoppable. The Lumberjacks averaged eight runs and game while allowing 2.9 and finished with a .365 team batting average.
Leading the offense were Cody Rutledge, Collin Leif and Nick Hovila. Rutledge had a team-high batting average of .465 while Leif finished at .415 and Hovila at .400.
The team had five other players hit over .300. That list includes Mitchell Hendricks (.379), Nick Conner (.378), Connor McNallan (.352), Mason Bellew (.341) and Sam Dwyer (.306).
Rutledge was the team leader in nine offensive categories. In addition to compiling the best batting average Rutledge also set the pace in runs (41), hits (40), RBI (36), doubles (12), triples (4), home runs (6), total bases (78) and walks (20).
Leif was second on the squad in hits (39), RBI (33) and total bases (50).
Hendricks' nine stolen bases represented a team-high and he was second to Rutledge in runs (33). He also shared the team lead in doubles with 12.
Cody Jenkins banged four home runs while Hovila had the team's only other round-tripper. Hovila also stole six bases and trailed only Hendricks in that category.
The ace of the pitching staff was sophomore Ryan Hirt who compiled a 2.01 earned run average and a 10-1 record in 80 innings. Hirt's only setback came in the state tournament championship game where he gave up a single run in Bemidji's 1-0 loss to Eastview.
Hirt struck out 83 in those 80 innings and walked 42. Opposing batters managed an ineffective .211 batting average against the lefty.
Jenkins started nine games and finished with a 6-0 record and a 3.65 ERA. The senior whiffed 30 and walked 34 in his 46.0 innings of work and opponents hit only .256 against him.
Bemidji's other mound workhorse was Hendricks who worked 40.2 innings, mostly in relief. The senior finished with a 2.58 ERA and an opposing batting average of .248 while striking out 22 and walking 17.
Hendricks compiled a 5-2 record and saved three games.
Defensively the Lumberjacks committed only 31 errors in 28 games.