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Bemidji Legion runs out of gas in title game

David Samson | Forum News Services Alexandria's Beau Backhaus guns down Bemidji's Erik Fitzgerald at second base Monday during the Minnesota Division 1 Sub-State 14 American Legion baseball tournament in Moorhead.

MOORHEAD -- After losing 6-5 in 13 innings Sunday to Alexandria in the Sub-State 14 American Legion baseball tournament finals Bemidji coach Nate Blumhagen wasn't sure what to expect when the teams staged their rematch Monday night here.

"Sunday's loss was a tough one. We had our chances to win that game," Blumhagen said. "But I thought we might be fresher coming into Monday's game."

Unfortunately, the Legion's pitching staff was stretched to its limit and Alexandria took advantage of the tired arms to pound 13 hits and thump Bemidji 18-5.

Bemidji, which was seeded seventh in the field prior to the start of the tournament, finished the year 10-18 but proved to everyone that the record is deceiving.

"Nobody but us expected us to be playing in the championship game on Monday night," Blumhagen said. "We certainly played tough in this tournament but our youth and our short bench showed. Alexandria played mostly a senior lineup and their experience was a factor."

In Sunday's marathon Pat Leary drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 13th inning.

Jeff Swedberg led off the 13th for top-seeded Alexandria with a double and Zach Peterson plated him with a single to tie the game. Peterson eventually scored on the sacrifice fly and Alexandria had the win.

On Monday Alexandria picked up where it left off as it scored a pair in the top of the first.

Bemidji answered with four, however, to temporarily take control.

Nick Hovila opened the home first with a single and Erik Fitzgerald bunted him to second. The bases became loaded when Connor McNallan walked and Lucas Goins was hit by a pitch and Collin Rutledge promptly delivered a two-run single. Goins scored on Mitch Buckanaga's fielder's choice and an error on the play plated Rutledge.

The Legion pitchers could not hold the lead, however. Rutledge started on the mound but he tired in the fifth and Alexandria took advantage of its opportunities.

"We had a couple of walks and a big error and things became unraveled," Blumhagen said." Alexandria came through with a couple of timely hits and all of a sudden we gave up six runs.

"I think we just ran out of gas."

Alexandria padded its cushion the rest of the way as it scored single runs in the sixth and seventh innings, plated two in the eighth and tallied five in the ninth.

"We had nothing left after the fifth inning," Blumhagen said. 'That inning took the wind out of our sails.

"But we had a great tournament," the coach continued. "We saved our best baseball for the tournament. We just didn't have quite enough to get us to state."

Hovila, Rutledge and Thomas Revering each had a pair of singles to lead the offense.

Alexandria 201 061 125 - 18 13

Bemidji 400 001 000 - 5 9

Stockert (W), Backus (6) and Leary. K-4, BB-4

Rutledge (L), Hovila (5), McNallan (5), Salander (9),Revering (9) and Buckanaga. K-2, BB-12

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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