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Baseball: Bemidji VFW season begins Monday

The Bemidji VFW baseball team launches its 2009 campaign tomorrow playing a district conference double header at Perham.

They will be the first of 23 games listed on the slate though Coach Brad Johnson hopes to add more before the year ended.

The District 9 Conference has lost Thief River Falls this year when that community was unable to field a team.

But it has regained East Grand Forks which went through the same problem in 2008. Moorhead, Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls join Bemidji, EGF and Perham.

They will play their usual round robin home and home schedule facing 20 league games.

The other three will come at the Grand Forks tournament late this month.

Johnson hopes to find at least one more tournament to enter.

He begins his fourth year at the helm with a 47-46 record but is still looking to take his first team to the state. Bemidji went 2-2 in the district meet last year, bowing to champion Fergus Falls and runner-up Perham.  That pair finished 1-2 in the regular season race with Perham tying Moorhead for second.

Bemidji was fourth at 10-10 beating DL and TRF.

As always, the Vets have a heavy turnover from year to year with most of last year's players advancing to the Legion ranks this year.

Replacements move up from the 15-U All Star team which had a fine summer under Carl Jacobs last season.

Most played on the record setting 29-2 freshmen team with the high school this spring with some on the B Team that ended 11-8.

Back from 2008 are Ernie Heifort, Booster Russ, Matt Schneider, Zach Solheim and Ryan Stevens.

Stevens was among the mound leaders at 3-0 while Heifort ended 1-0 in limited opportunities.

Solheim, Schneider and Russ also pitch as do Cole Bardwell, Mason Bellew, Kris Berndt, Mitch Hendricks, Trey Johnson, Collin Leif, Chase Vogt ,Jake Urban and Remer's Kevin Murphy who played this spring for Tim Vagle at Northland high. His older brother played Legion ball here the past two summers.

Leif and Alex Lucas will provide two solid catchers with Bellew, Heifort, Hendricks, Johnson, Russ, Schneider, Solheim, Urban and Vogt infielders by trade with Bardwell, Berndt, Murphy and Stevens outfielders when not on the mound.

Only Bellew, Hendricks and Leif are 15 this year with the remainder seeing their final year at the VFW level.

This marks the 30th year of VFW play for a team founded by Frank Pelawa in 1980 when it was the only team in the district meet and advanced to the state tournament.

It returned in 1981, 84 and 85, winning the title the final year.,

The following summer Bemidji lacked enough players to field a team but returned for the 1987 campaign and has been on the diamond since.

It returned to the state meet in 88 and 89, launching a nine year run from 1992-2000, winning the consolation championship in1997.

Since 2001, however, it has gained the state meet only once, going in 1995 under Rick Looker.

Bemidji makes its home debut June 16 with Fergus Falls.

It will play most of its five home dates at Sagedahl or the Arena diamonds with some possibly at BSU when that field is available.

It has the prospects of making a run again for the district title this year.