Waiting to play outside: Bemidji baseball team continues to deal with extended winter
BEMIDJI – The start of the Bemidji High School baseball practice season was more than a month ago and the Lumberjacks are still looking forward to their first workout outdoors.
That momentous occasion could come Saturday when BHS is scheduled to travel to Eagan and Eden Prairie for games against the state-ranked suburban teams.
“We’re in our fifth week indoors and we’re continuing to get ready for the season,” Bemidji coach Mike Fogelson said. “We practice four days a week in the gym but I’ve given the players Fridays off so they can have long weekends.
“There have been some silver linings to being indoors so long,” Fogelson continued. “Our pitchers have been able to throw eight to 10 bullpen sessions so far and usually they only have three or four before the season starts. And our hitters have more than the usual numbers of at-bats in the cage.”
Despite having to deal with the problems associated with being indoors, the Lumberjacks have concentrated on the task at hand.
“This is definitely the longest we’ve continuously been inside but the kids have been positive and focused,” Fogelson said. “There has been no complaining. They’ve continued to work. They’ve also been talking about what they want to accomplish once they get outside.”
Those accomplishments include winning the section championship and making a third straight trip to the state tournament.
If the Twin Cities can avoid another snowstorm this week the Lumberjacks could finally step outside noon Saturday at Eagan. Following that game Bemidji would hop on the bus and travel to Eden Prairie for a rematch of last spring’s Class 3A state semifinal game.
The Lumberjacks won that contest 8-6. Two days later BHS lost 1-0 to Eastview in the state championship battle at Target Field.
When the snow does finally melt the Jacks will be busy as the 18-game regular season will be crunched into a four-week span.
To have any success in the revamped schedule Bemidji will need solid pitching and Fogelson believes that the staff will be up to the task.
“We have six kids we feel very good about on the mound,” the coach said. “Overall, this is one of the better pitching staffs we have had since I’ve been here as the coach.”
Headlining the group is junior Ryan Hirt who was the ace of the staff last spring. Also expected to contribute on the mound this season are Drew Peterson, Connor McNallan, James Hendricks, Collin Rutledge and Brady Eckman.
While the pitching staff appears solid the jury is still out on the infield.
“So far we’ve looked good but we need to get outside to see who can field, throw and hit,” Fogelson said.
The coach plans on rotating his infielders Saturday and among the candidates are Hirt, Mark Fenner, Hendricks, Parker Lucas, McNallan and Billy Baumgartner.
Expected to share the catching chores Saturday are Thomas Revering and Sam Carlson while Nick Hovila will anchor an outfield that will include Devin Barrett, Rutledge, Peterson and Adam Lewis.
“We have veterans in Connor, Nick, Billy, Drew and Ryan but many of the guys are new faces to the varsity,” Fogelson said. “During the past two years we knew what we had but the fun thing about this spring is getting to know and evaluate a new team. We have many questions to answer and that’s why we’re bringing 14 or 15 guys this weekend.
“Overall, I think the group is confident but we will have to see how what we’ve been doing in the gym translates to the outside,” Fogelson added.