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Legion baseball season draws to a close

The season came to an abrupt end for the Bemidji Legion baseball team Tuesday as it dropped both sub-district starts in Brainerd.

After losing a heart-breaker to Nisswa 2-1 in the afternoon the Legion fell 10-9 to Brainerd in Tuesday's late elimination game.

Brainerd, which entered the four-team tournament as the top seed, had lost to No. 4 Little Falls 6-3 in Tuesday's other first-round contest.

Nisswa, ranked second, scored single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to nip No. 3 Bemidji in the first-round game and Brainerd duplicated the late heroics in the elimination game.

The Legion forged 9-3 advantage heading into the bottom of the eighth but Brainerd rallied with four in the eighth and three in the ninth to end Bemidji's season.

"It was a tough way to have the summer come to an end," said Legion coach Mike Fogelson. "We played 32 games during the regular season and to have the year end with only two playoff games is tough.

"But we played well in both games and the kids can be proud of their effort."

The Legion constructed a 4-0 cushion in the upper second. Tyler Tatro walked to begin the stanza and advanced courtesy of Zach Solheim's bunt. Matt Hietala reached with the aid of an error and Booster Russ' single loaded the bases.

Jeremiah Graves plated the lead runner with a single and Hietala scored when Mitch Hendricks walked. Collin Leif's single drove in Russ and Graves scored when Cody Rutledge coaxed a base on balls.

Bemidji was denied further runs in the frame when the Brainerd defense turned a 6-2-3 doubleplay.

"That was a tough break for us," Fogelson said of the twin killing. "Brainerd had its infield in and the shortstop made a nice play. It was bang-bang at first and the call could have gone either way. But it went in favor of Brainred."

After the Legion scored three runs in the fourth to take a 7-0 lead the call seemed academic. But it would prove costly down the stretch.

Rutledge started the fourth-inning rally with a single and Mason Bellew doubled. A walk to Tatro loaded the bases and an error, sandwiched by singles off the bats of Solheim and Hietala, produced three runs.

The home team drew within 7-3 with a pair in the sixth and one in the seventh but the Legion countered with two in the upper eighth on singles by Leif and Rutledge, Bellew's sacrifice bunt and Tatro's 2-run single.

Had the games been seven innings Bemidji would have won both outings on Tuesday. But tournament rules extended the games to nine innings and the extra at-bats proved decisive.

Brainerd used two errors, three singles and a walk to score four in the lower eighth and its bats continued to make noise in the ninth.

Mitch Bizdok doubled to start the ninth and a walk and single loaded the bases. Jaron Hanson tied the game with a 2-run double and Jake Caughey ended the contest with his game-winning walk-off single.

"Brainerd got its bats rolling in those last two innings," Fogelson said. "The kids played hard and wanted to move on but it just didn't happen. Losing two close games in the final at-bats made for a tough day."

The Legion ended the summer with a 20-14 record.

Bemidji 040 300 020 - 9 13 2

Brainerd 000 002 143 - 10 15 2

Stevens, Berndt (9) (L), Rutledge (9) and Leif. K-2, BB-4

Peterson, Howard (4), Hagerty (8) (W) and Mimick. K-7, BB-6

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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