Lumberjacks baseball team beats Brainerd in section final four
The Bemidji baseball team battled Alexandria Saturday night in the winner's bracket final of the Section 8-3A tournament in St. Cloud.
The Lumberjacks trailed Alexandria 5-2 after three innings when the Pioneer went to press.
If BHS rallied to down the Cardinals they would vault into the section title series and a 7 p.m. game in St. Cloud against the survivor of Tuesday's 4 p.m. loser's bracket final.
If the Jacks lost to Alexandria, however, they would play either Brainerd or Sauk Rapids 4 p.m. Tuesday in the loser's bracket.
In Saturday's semifinals Bemidji rallied from a 6-2 deficit to trim Brainerd 10-6 in eight innings. Alexandria advanced with a 16-10 triumph over Sauk Rapids.
In the first inning of Saturday's late game Bemidji managed a two-out threat as Tyler Follis reached on an infield error and gained third on a wild pickoff attempt.
Alexandria escaped, however, by coaxing Cody Jenkins to ground out.
BHS continued its attack in the second inning and took a 2-0 lead as Mason Bellew doubled, Zach Solheim walked, Sam Dwyer reached after forcing Bellew at third and Dom Hayle plated both base runners with a triple to center.
But the lead did not last long as the Cardinals touched Follis, who started on the Bemidji mound, for four runs in their half of the inning on a pair of doubles and three singles.
Alexandria upped its cushion to 5-2 in the third on a single, stolen base, ground ball and sacrifice fly.
Against Brainerd the Lumberjacks trailed 6-2 after five innings but rallied to topple the Warriors 10-6.
Hayle ripped a bases-loaded triple to key a four-run sixth and the junior also started the winning rally in the eighth when his ground ball was booted.
By the time Brainerd recovered from that error Bemidji had four runs and, after reliever Jeremiah Graves retired the Warriors without incident in the bottom of the stanza, the Jacks had the 10-6 victory and a berth in the winner's bracket final against Alexandria.
BHS trailed most of the contest as Brainerd, which entered the 8-3A tournament as the top seed, used a double, balk and wild pitch to score a run in the bottom of the first.
The Warriors upped their cushion to 3-0 in the third on a pair of walks and two singles.
Bemidji, the seventh seed, drew within 3-2 in the top of the fourth when Follis doubled, Jenkins singled, Cody Rutledge and Solheim walked to force home one run and Dwyer delivered a sacrifice fly to plate Jenkins.
Brainerd promptly regained the momentum as it scored a solo run in the lower fourth and tallied two more in the fifth.
Trailing 6-2, however, the Lumberjacks began their comeback in the sixth.
Bellew opened the frame with a double and Solheim was hit by a pitch. An error on Dwyer's ground ball loaded the bases and Hayle quickly cleared the sacks when he blasted a triple off the right-field fence.
Later in the stanza Leif doubled home Hayle and the game was tied.
The 6-6 deadlock continued until the upper eighth and Hayle began the winning rally by reaching on an error. Mitchell Hendricks sacrificed Hayle to second where he scored courtesy of Leif's single. Leif reached second on the throw home and Brainerd decided to intentionally walk Follis.
The tactic backfired, however, as Jenkins delivered an RBI single and another run scored when the relay to the plate was botched.
After Rutledge waked to put runners on first and second Bellew belted a single to left to score the game's final run.
Solheim started on the BHS mound and went 4.1 innings. Jeremiah Graves relieved with one down in the fifth and earned the victory as he held Brainerd scoreless the rest of the way.
Leif, Jenkins and Bellew each had two hits. Hayle finished with three RBI and Leif two.
Section 8-3A Final Four Semifinals
Bemidji 10, Brainerd 6, 8 innings
Alexandria 16, Sauk Rapids 10
Bemidji 000 204 04 - 10 9 0
Brainerd 102 120 00 - 6 12 3
Solheim, Graves (5) (W) and Leif. K-6, BB-4
Peterson, Hegarty (5), Bubalo (6) (L) and London. K-3, BB-8
Saturday's Late Games
Brainerd vs. Sauk Rapids, loser eliminated
Bemidji vs. Alexandria