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Baseball: Blue Ox open season Friday against Mudcats

The Bemidji Blue Ox will begin its third season of play tonight when it takes on the Bemidji Mudcats at 7 at the BSU diamond.

The younger Blue Ox was formed by Chris Conway in 2007 and competed in the Class A Itasca League the past two years,

That league folded after last season with its champion Nashwauk moving into the Class B Arrowhead League.

The Blue Ox will compete to the west and north this year against such opponents as East Grand Forks, Crookston, Roseau. Ada and Warroad and will play in tournaments at Bemidji and Hibbing in July.

It will also face the usual best of three series with the Mudcats starting with tonight's game.

The current schedule lists 29 games.

The team which suffered frequently from lack of numbers last year, shows 18 on the roster this year.

Among them are 10 back from last year when the Ox went 15-12 and reached the state meet for the first time, losing its opener.

It was 12-4 in the Itasca losing the title when it was forced to forfeit two games for lack of players.

Leading the returnees is mound star Cody Gross of Blackduck who went 7-1 in 2008, his only loss at the state.

He is joined by Pat McSharry (3-1)., Thor Josefson (1-0) Justin Huether (1-1), Colton Smith (0-2) and Cody Randt (0-3).

Joining these are ex-Lumberjacks Matt Fossen and Sam Saccoman who should add depth. Fossen pitched for BSU this spring.

Other returning members are outfielders Zach Stenson and Buck Dwyer, infielders Joel Conway and Josh Kelsey and catcher-manager Chris Conway.

New additions are Dan Bennett, Nate Brown, Auston Zetah, Eric Olson and Sol Schneider, Zetah and Schneider who will double with the American Legion.

Tonight's game will be the team's opener. It heads to East Grand Sunday for a double header.