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Blue Ox earn top seed in league playoffs

Bemidji Blue Ox player Joel Conway slides wide of a tag by Cass Lake Reds' catcher Brendan Humphrey during first inning action in their amateur baseball game Tuesday evening. The Blue Ox won 4-3, securing them the top seed in the region tournament this week. MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji Blue Ox men's amateur baseball team gained the top seed of the Lake and Pine Northeast playoffs and an automatic berth into the region tournament late Tuesday when it edged Cass Lake 4-3 at the Bemidji State University diamond.

Tuesday's victory gave Bemidji an 8-6 overall record while the Reds dipped to 9-4. In head-to-head play the Blue Ox took two of the three games against Cass Lake and that edge helped Bemidji earn the top seed in the playoffs which will begin Saturday at the BSU diamond. The elimination round and championship game will be July 27 at BSU.

In Saturday's first round the Blue Ox will take on the fourth seed (either Leech Lake or Nevis) at noon and Cass Lake will face the third seed (Leech Lake or Nevis) at 3 p.m.

The winners will square off at 6 p.m.

The league playoffs will resume on July 27. Regardless of how the Blue Ox fares in the league tournament it will advance to the region tournament which will be hosted by Ada. Joining the Blue Ox at Ada will be the highest finisher in the league playoffs among Cass Lake, Leech Lake and Nevis.

Tuesday's game was close all the way and two Blue Ox runs in the top of the eighth inning proved decisive.

Bemidji took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Matt Baier and Chris Conway walked, Duane Biehn singled home one run and Conway scored on a passed ball.

The Reds tied the game with solo runs in the third and fourth innings. Brandon Beck's single and Chad Wittner's double produced the third-inning tally while a walk to Jake Ellis, Mike Hanson's single and a fielder's choice combined for the run in the fourth.

The 2-2 tie continued into the eighth but the Blue Ox took a 4-2 edge on Chris Conway's double, Biehn's RBI single and an outfield error.

The Reds closed the gap to 4-3 in the lower eighth on a single by Kyle Fairbanks, Ellis' fielder's choice, a stolen base and Hanson's RBI single.

Both teams were retired in order in the ninth.

Matt Schneider earned the pitching victory as he worked eight innings. Biehn collected a save with one inning of perfect relief.

Nolan Coyle went the distance on the mound for the Reds.

Biehn had two singles and two RBIs for Bemidji. Hanson had two hits for the Reds.

Tuesday's Game

Blue Ox 200 000 020 - 4 5 0

Cass Lake 001 100 010 - 3 8 1

Schneider (W), Biehn (9) (S) and C.Conway. K-2, BB-5

Coyle (L) and Humphrey. K-13, BB-6

Lake and Pine Playoffs


Saturday's Schedule

Game 1: Blue Ox (No. 1 seed) vs. Nevis/Leech Lake (No. 4), noon

Game 2: Cass Lake (No. 2) vs. Nevis/Leech Lake (No. 3), 3 p.m.

Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.

Saturday, July 27

Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, noon (loser eliminated)

Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 3 p.m. (loser eliminated)

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.

Game 7: Repeat of Game 6, 9 p.m. (if necessary)

NOTE: Blue Ox has already qualified for region playoffs in Ada by winning league regular season title. Also advancing to region playoffs will be the highest finisher among Cass Lake, Nevis and Leech Lake.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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