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VFW keeps rolling against Perham

Nick Hovila of the Bemidji VFW successfully stole second base in the first inning of Thursday's opener against Perham. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Heading into this week's action Bemidji VFW coach Brad Johnson knew his team could challenge for the district crown.

The Vets entered the week 9-3 overall and 8-0 against district foes but two of their top competitors, Perham and Moorhead, would face Bemidji in doubleheaders on consecutive days.

"This week will tell us more about how we stand," Johnson said prior to the week's action.

Wednesday the Vets disposed of Moorhead 4-3 and 11-7. Thursday Bemidji capped a great week by thumping Perham 9-5 and 8-5.

"Before the week we were ranked No. 1 in the district, Perham was No. 2 and Moorhead No. 3," Johnson said. "This was an important week and we went 4-0 against two of the top teams in the district. It was a great couple of days."

Bemidji's formula for success was simple: hit the ball, make the defensive plays and pitch well enough to maintain leads.

Whenever the pitching allowed a run or two, the offense would come to the aid.

"Every time Perham or Moorhead scored, we would come back with as many if not more runs," Johnson said. "It is a great confidence booster for the pitchers knowing that the offense has their backs."

In Thursday's opener Perham scored in the first inning only to see Bemidji answer with three. The visitors tallied one in the upper second but the Vets answered with one of their own.

After Perham drew within 4-3 in the fourth, Bemidji came back with four in the fifth. And two more Perham runs in the sixth were balanced by a Bemidji tally in the bottom of the inning.

Dom Hayle jump-started the VFW offense when he tripled to lead off the first inning. He would score when Perham booted Nick Hovila's grounder and, after stealing second and gaining third on a wild pitch, Hovila scored courtesy of Mason Bellew's single.

Walks to Collin Leif and Cody Jenkins loaded the bases and Sam Dwyer plated Bellew with a sacrifice fly.

Nick Conner's double and Bellew's single produced a run in the second and the decisive fifth inning featured singles by Hovila, Leif, Trent Baker and Devin Barrett plus a walk to Dwyer and Jenkins' 2-run triple.

Leif finished with a pair of singles while Hayle and Jenkins contributed triples and Conner ripped a double and a single.

Bemidji captured the nightcap by pounding 13 hits and making all of the defensive plays.

"We hit well and the defense played well," Johnson said. "Defensively we didn't panic when Perham had runners in scoring position. We made all of the routine plays and that's what we want to see happen."

Once again the visitors struck first as three singles produced a first-inning run. And, once again, the VFW responded.

Conner McNallan's single, Leif's double and Drew Peterson's single combined for a pair of runs in the lower first. The Vets continued to apply the pressure in the second as Mark Fenner walked, Hayle blasted an RBI triple to right and McNallan added a run-scoring single.

Another two runs came across in the fourth. McNallan doubled, gained third on a passed ball and scored courtesy of Bellew's fly ball. Peterson kept the inning alive with a single and, after stealing second, scored when Barrett singled.

The VFW added two key insurance runs in the fifth on a walk to Cody Labernick, Hayle's double, McNallan's groundout and an error.

Hayle finished with a double and a triple. McNallan and Peterson each had a double and two singles and Leif contributed a single and a double.

Dwyer earned the pitching win and Leif retired the final two batters for the save.

NOTE: The VFW will stage its annual brat feed fundraiser 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday at the Bemidji Legion. Everyone is invited.

First Game

Perham 110 102 0 - 5 8 2

Bemidji 310 041 x - 9 10 1

Hein (L), Schumacher (6) and Haverland. K-3, BB-5

Hirt (W), Bellew (5) (S) and Leif. K-6, BB-10

Second Game

Perham 100 200 2 - 5 8 2

Bemidji 220 220 x - 8 13 0

Brauck (L) and Haverland. K-4, B-3

Dwyer (W), Leif (7) (S) and Buckanaga, Labernick (4). K-5, BB-5

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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