Leif spotless in final innings as BHS holds on
BEMIDJI - Collin Leif spends most of his playing time behind the plate and there are few catchers in the section who can match his rocket arm to second.
Friday night during Bemidji's first game of the two-day Des Sagedahl Wooden Bat tournament, however, the Lumberjack senior was asked to trade his catcher's gear for a pitcher's glove.
And the senior admirably handled the new duties, tossing 3 1/2 innings of shutout relief to help Bemidji outlast Grand Forks Red River 10-7.
In Friday's late game, Bemidji (16-1) topped Duluth East 10-0.
Bemidji roared to a 10-2 lead after three innings against Red River, but Jacks starting pitcher Cody Jenkins had trouble getting ahead of the Rough Rider hitters in the fourth inning and the result was five Red River runs.
Leif was summoned and he got the final out of that stanza and preserved Bemidji's 10-7 lead by not allowing a run in the final three innings.
"Collin came in and showed us that his is a good pitcher," said BHS coach Mike Fogelson. "He knew going into this game that he was going to be the closer and he did a great job. All we asked him to do was throw strikes and that's what he did."
"I've been waiting for this chance all year," Leif said. "Bucky (Mitch Buckanaga) did a great job catching me and you can always depend upon our defense so all I wanted to do was throw strikes and keep the pitches at the knees."
The Lumberjacks normally use their power to score runs but during Friday's first inning a walk and three bloops to the outfield set the table for four runs.
Red River, however, used a walk, bad-hop single, a solid hit to center and a bloop over second to climb within 4-2 in the top of the second.
Connor McNallan's hustling double to center and a pair of bunts pushed a BHS run across in the lower second and Bemidji seemingly took complete control with five runs in the third.
The key hits in that outburst were Sam Dwyer's bases loaded triple, McNallan's RBI double and Cody Rutledge's booming run scoring triple to center.
"We hit the ball well and scored a bunch of runs early," Fogelson said.
Bemidji's offense, however, couldn't maintain that torrid pace and Red River was able to close its gap.
"All of a sudden our bats slowed and Red River got the momentum," Leif said. "We had our chances to shut them down but we didn't.
"But sometimes you have to win ugly," Leif added.
Leif fanned four in his 3.1 innings on the mound and Red River's final opportunity to complete a comeback was dashed in the seventh when Bemidji's infield worked a sterling double play.
McNallan had a pair of doubles to lead Bemidji's 12-hit attack. Rutledge contributed a triple and a single and Mason Bellew and Nick Conner each had two singles.
Today's tournament schedule begins at 10 a.m. with Red River facing Roseau. At noon Duluth East and Red River will battle and the 2 p.m. tournament finale matches Bemidji and Roseau.
Des Sagedahl Tournament
Roseau 300 300 0 - 6 9 0
Duluth East 000 001 2 - 3 6 1
GF Red River 020 500 0 - 7 7 1
Bemidji 415 000 x - 10 12 2
Steen (L), Kemnitz (4) and Palmiscno. K-0, BB-2
Jenkins, Leif (4, W) and Leif, Buckanaga (4). K-9, BB-6
10 a.m.: Red River vs. Roseau
Noon: Red River vs. Duluth East
2 p.m.: Bemidji vs. Roseau