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Bemidji Legion falls 6-5 in 13 innings; will play again for Sub-State 14 title Monday evening

Bemidji’s Gabe Salander pitches to Alexandria’s Mitchell Thompson during the Minnesota Division I, Sub-State 14 American Legion baseball tournament on Sunday at Matson Field in Moorhead. Forum News Service photo

MOORHEAD – It may have taken 22 innings and over six hours, but with a little sacrifice Alexandria lives to play another day.

Pat Leary drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 13th inning to help Alexandria defeat No.7-seeded Bemidji 6-5 at the Minnesota Division I, Sub-State 14 American Legion baseball tournament on Sunday at Matson Field and force a second championship game.

“Basically, what I was thinking is ‘just hit it out of the infield,’” Leary said of his game-winning fly out. “We never really give up or put our heads down. We keep the intensity going and momentum moving and try and chip away as fast as we can.”

Leary’s heroics in the championship game capped a productive day for the graduated senior. In the loser’s-bracket final against Moorhead, lasting roughly 2 ½ hours, Leary tallied three hits and drove in two runs to pace Alexandria to a 6-4 win.

Jeff Swedberg led off the 13th for Alexandria with a hard hit double that hit the fence in left field. Zach Peterson then stepped into the box for his first at-bat and ripped an RBI single to right; scoring Swedberg to knot the game 5-5 and Peterson would take second on the throw home.

Nick Knoblach put down a sacrifice bunt to move Peterson to third and set up Leary’s sacrifice fly.

“Whenever we’re down I don’t worry about because we can always come back and win these games,” said Alexandria head coach Jake Munsch. “Obviously, 22 innings of baseball with your back against the wall is a tough feat in itself. I just give it up to the guys for working hard and persevering.”

Bemidji was on the aggressive from the start. Leadoff batter Nick Hovila walked and scored the game’s first run thanks to Lucas Goins’ RBI double. Tyler Geerdes drove in a run in the sixth and Collin Rutledge cleared the bases for a two-run double in the seventh to take a 4-2 lead.

Alex had a chance to blow the game open in the sixth, but Bemidji ace Conner McNallan diffused the situation.

With two outs, starter Gabe Salander walked three consecutive Alex batters to load the bases and force the pitching change, but McNallan struck Swedberg out looking to end the inning.

Swedberg finished with two doubles and in the game against Moorhead, he and Mitch Thompson had home runs in the third and fifth inning, respectively.

“I just saw the first pitch and got my weight going and took it out,” Swedberg said of his homer in Game 1. “I thought I made good contact with it and it just kept going. It was a big spark for our whole team and we kept rolling after that so it was nice for us.”

Munsch added: “(Jeff and Mitch) come up in situations that are huge for us and produce and that’s what you need in order to win games like this. I’m just all around impressed with how these kids battled today.”

Top-seeded Alexandria will have to win a second championship game at 6 p.m. today in order to secure their spot in the state tournament starting Friday in Edina (Minn.).

B 100 001 200 000 1 - 5 15 1

A 000 010 102 000 2 - 6 8 4

Salander, McNallan (6), Lucas (12), Rutledge (13) and Buckanaga. Allen, Bowden (7), Stockert (10), Backhaus (12) and P. Leary. W–Backhaus. L–Rutledge.