SOFTBALL: Bemidji overcomes early struggle to top Apollo in Section quarterfinals
BEMIDJI — A year ago the Bemidji High School softball team was the second seed in the Section 8-3A playoffs and hosted Rocori in the section quarterfinals.
Despite being a heavy favorite the Lumberjacks couldn’t make anything happen offensively and the result was a 1-0 loss and a quick exit from the postseason.
Wednesday at the high school diamond the Jacks were in a similar position. BHS is the top overall seed and hosted No. 9 St. Cloud Apollo which had eliminated No. 8 St. Cloud Tech 6-2 earlier in the afternoon.
Apollo, however, didn’t play like a ninth seed as the Eagles scored a run in the opening frame and added a pair in the top of the second to take a 3-0 lead.
Unlike last spring when Bemidji’s offense never surfaced, the Jacks’ attack came to life with five runs in the bottom of the second and that outburst carried BHS to a 6-3 victory and a berth in the section semifinals on Monday.
Monday’s contest will be against Brainerd, the No. 4 seed. Rocori defeated Sartell 1-0 and Brainerd stopped Rocori 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Bemidji’s day didn’t start out well.
The Eagles stunned the Lumberjacks early in the action. A bloop single to begin the game and Liz Lowery’s solid double to left gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the opening frame.
St. Cloud Apollo added two in the second inning and temporarily owned a 3-0 lead.
Heading into the bottom of the second Bemdji coach Brad Takkunen had a flash back to last spring’s tournament opener but he was hoping for a different outcome.
“As we did last year, the girls came out playing tight,” Takkunen said. “I knew that could happen and I was worried that it might. We needed to instill confidence into our game and scoring those five runs in the bottom of the second sure helped.”
The big inning featured five hits, a walk and a perfect sacrifice bunt and the bottom of the order did most of the damage.
Sylvia Grimm opened the stanza with single and Mariah Dahl followed with a double. After Bri Newmann walked to fill the bases Jessa Lusby banged a 2-run single.
Jasmin Yerbich bunted runners to second and third and Newmann scored courtesy of Courtney Black’s single.
A few pitches later Lusby walked home with the fifth run as an attempted pickoff throw by Apollo catcher Liz Lowery sailed into left field.
Dahl’s hit to right field was the first of three doubles by the junior designated hitter. In the third inning Dahl one-hopped the left-field fence for a double and in the fifth inning the junior capped her day with a double to the fence in center.
Dahl’s plan in the second inning was to take what the pitcher gave her.
“I knew she wasn’t going to give us much but when the pitch came in it looked like a strike and I decided to hit it,” Dahl said. “My goal was to just get on base so I could help the team out.”
“The second inning was the key to the win,” Takkunen said. “If you can get one or two runs when you are down early it helps you but to get five in that inning was tremendous.
“Apollo was riding high at the start but when we scored those five runs it set the tone for how a game between the first seed and the eighth seed should be.”
BHS scored a key insurance run in the fifth when Hanna Olson singled, Jess Yost forced her at second and Dahl plated Yost with her third double of the afternoon.
“Even though we were down 3-0 early I knew we were going to come back,” Dahl said. “Once we get going we usually come through and usually win the game.”
Following Wednesday’s victory Takkunen didn’t need to say much to his players. His roster includes many veterans and they understand softball and its pitfalls.
“The kids admitted that they learned the importance of coming out hard and not being tentative,” the coach said. “When we make the plays and play with confidence, we get the outs.”
Yost went the distance on the BHS mound and scattered eight hits. The senior struck out 12 and walked only two.
Dahl had three doubles and Black three singles to spearhead the offense. Neumann contributed a pair of singles and Lusby finished with a double and a single.
Section 8-3A Playoffs
St. Cloud Apollo 6, St. Cloud Tech 2
Rocori 1, Sartell 0
Brainerd 6, Rocori 2
Bemidji 6, St. Cloud Apollo 3
Bemidji 6, St. Cloud Apollo 3
Apollo 120 000 0 - 3 8 3
Bemidji 050 010 x - 6 13 2
Pederson (L) and Lowery. K-0, BB-2
Yost (W) and Black. K-11, BB-2