Solheim, Leif lead Jacks baseball team past Red River in Sagedahl Tournament
After only a few pitches Bemidji High School catcher Collin Leif knew what path Friday's game against Grand Forks Red River was going to follow.
Zach Solheim started on the mound for the Jacks and only one of his pitches in the first inning missed the strike zone. Red River didn't get a ball out of the infield as the Roughriders were retired on a strikeout, pop to the infield and a routine ground ball to short.
Solheim's dominance and a few timely hits combined to give Bemidji a 3-0 win in its first game of this weekend's Des Sagedahl tournament. Today the Jacks will try to match Friday's performance when they face Duluth East at noon and Roseau at 4 p.m.
"Zach was dominant. This was his best performance of the year," Leif said. "He threw all of the pitches at the knees and allowed the defense to do its work."
Solheim agreed with his catcher's assessment.
"My curve ball was a great pitch (Friday) and my fast ball was really humming," Solheim said. "My slider was off and on but every now and then it would be the perfect pitch.
"In this game I felt as good as I have all year," Solheim said.
Red River managed only three hits off the Bemidji right-hander. The first was a harmless infield single in the second inning and the others were singles in the sixth and seventh innings.
The visitors threatened only in the seventh as a walk, single and an error advanced runners to second and third with one out.
Solheim single-handedly took care of the situation, however, as he fanned the next two batters, both on curve balls that had the batters guessing. He finished with 10 strikeouts.
"This is a wooden bat tournament and during the first couple of innings we stayed inside to try and jam the hitters," Leif said. "Once they were concentrating on trying to hit the inside pitch we went outside."
In addition to calling a masterful game, Leif was among Bemidji's heroes with the bat. His third-inning single drove in the game's first run as it plated Mitchell Hendricks who had doubled.
In the fifth Leif doubled off the left-field fence and pinch-runner Dom Hayle easily scored Bemidji's third run a few pitches later when Tyler Follis banged a triple off the right-field screen.
"I've been seeing the ball well all year," Leif said. "On my single the pitch was on the outside part of the plate and I tried to hit it away. On the double I saw the pitch coming inside so I just turned on it."
Bemidji's second run came in the fourth inning and resulted from the hustle of pinch-runner Trent Baker.
Solheim started the rally with a one-out single and Baker came in to run. Mason Bellew then hit a ground ball to shortstop Dylan Dufault who ran to second to get the force and start a double-play. Baker, however, beat Dufault to the bag and Red River had to settle for only the out at first.
Baker's hustle was rewarded when Cody Jenkins blooped a single to shallow center and Baker scored on a close play at the plate.
"Cody had a big hit and Trent's running around the bases gave us a huge run," said BHS coach Mike Fogelson. "In this game you never know when it's going to be your opportunity to make a big play and you have to make things happen when that chance comes.
"This victory was a good way for us to start the weekend," Fogelson continued. "We pitched well, the defense was solid and we had timely hitting."
"Our level of play has just been going up and up," Solheim said. "And we want to continue playing that way."
Bemidji also opened the junior varsity portion of the tournament with a victory as it stopped Blackduck 10-0. Blackduck's team featured a mix of varsity and JV players.
Mitch Buckanaga's double ignited a 7-run second inning. Nick Conner and Cody Labernick each contributed 2-run singles in the stanza.
Drew Peterson went the distance to earn the pitching victory.
The JV will face Duluth East noon today and Roseau at 4 p.m. Those games will be played at the Sagedahl Field by the middle school.
Tournament results listed in today's scoreboard on page 6.