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Baseball: Legion throws all it can at Nisswa in two close losses

The young Bemidji American Legion baseball team gave Nisswa all it wanted Tuesday but still dropped both games of their sub-district twin bill 3-2 and 5-3 at Nisswa.

It dropped Bemidji to 2-6 in district play and lifted Nisswa to 6-1.

Nisswa trails league leading Little Falls (7-1) by a half game but holds a 5-1 lead over Brainerd in a rain suspended contest in the fifth inning.

Nisswa will pay a return visit to Bemidji Monday for a 5 p.m. twin bill at BSU.

It plays twice tonight at Brainerd.

Bemidji received excellent hurling from Cody Rutledge and Josh Kane but failed to hit in the clutch and gave away four runs in the nightcap with loose fielding.

Rutledge allowed only four hits in the opener in his duel with Brainerd High ace Dan Bendzik.

He fanned five but walked eighth which eventually proved his undoing.

Nisswa took a 2-0 lead in the second when Ethan Nichols singled and two walks filled the bases with one gone.

Rutledge got Dez Janousek on a pop to first but walked the next two batters to force in two runs.

Bemidji got one back in the third when Luke Burns singled and advanced when Jeremiah Graves reached when Bendzik fumbled his sacrifice attempt.

Tyler Follis then did sacrifice the two runners up and Burns scored on Rutledge's sacrifice fly.

Nisswa scored what proved to be the winning run in the fifth when Casey Christianson singled with one gone and Bendzik walked. With two outs, Nichols singled home Christianson.

Burns walked and Follis doubled him to third with one gone in the sixth but Bendzik retired the next two batters stranding them at second and third.

In the seventh, Follis singled with one out, his third hit of the game. With two gone, he scored on Simon Anderson's double. Matt Hietala walked to put the potential go ahead run on base. But Bendzik got the final out on a grounder to second to end the contest.

He gave up six hits, struck out five but walked only three. Anderson added two safeties to Follis' three.

Early lead

Kane deserved a better fate in the second game with only one of the five Nisswa runs earned.

The winners jumped ahead 3-0 in the first when Janousek walked and two errors sent him across. Zac Voels singled home two more runs with two outs.

Bemidji got one back in the second when Anderson walked, Hietala reached on an error, both advanced on a sacrifice and Anderson scored on a sacrifice fly.

But Nisswa got that back in the last of the inning when pitcher Burnell Flanagan walked, Ty Alters reached on another error and Christianson singled with two gone to send Flanagan home.

Bemidji made it 4-2 in the third when Graves reached on an error, Follis doubled and Rutledge singed him home. Flanagan got the next two outs, however to strand two runners.

Bemidji got within one in the fifth when Graves walked, moved up on a ground out and scored on a single by Anderson.

But again Nisswa answered when it came to bat when two singles around a walk filled the bases with no outs.

Kane got a force out at home but Craig McCluney sent a run home with a sacrifice fly.

Bemidji's biggest chance came in the sixth when Collin Leif singled and Kane and Nick Lee reached on errors.

That ended Flanagan's day with Trevor Thompson relieving. He got Graves to hit into a 5-2-3 double play and retired Follis on a comebacker, leaving two more runners aboard.

He worked around three walks in the seventh without allowing a run.

In all, Bemidji stranded 13 base runners in the game. In ended with six hits from as many different batters. Nisswa also had six, two by Christianson.

"One key hit at any point of either game could have won both of them," said Coach Mike Fogelson." "But we're finding out we can go nose to nose with the top teams in the area and hopefully we will continue to improve from game to game."

The team will get a good chance to prove that point tonight.

Anderson and Graves will get the starts at Brainerd.