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VFW baseball team routs Detroit Lakes in district opener

The first step on way to a district championship was successfully taken Friday by the Bemidji VFW baseball team as the Vets overcame first-game jitters to thump Detroit Lakes 14-4 in East Grand Forks.

Bemidji owned a tenuous 6-4 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth but settled the issue with an 8-run explosion. Friday's victory vaulted the VFW into today's noon winner's bracket semifinal against either Perham or Moorhead. Those teams played later Friday and that winner will tangle with Bemidji.

If the Vets win today they will advance to the district title game 1 p.m. Sunday. A loss would push Bemidji into an elimination game at 6 p.m. today.

The championship game is set for 1 p.m. Sunday. A second game, if needed, would follow.

"You could tell we were nervous and tight," VFW coach Brad Johnson said of Friday's victory. "Detroit Lakes didn't make it easy for us. They battled the entire way and played the best game that we've seen them play this year."

Detroit Lakes opened the scoring with a run in the first inning but Bemidji answered with a pair in the second. Cody Jenkins began the stanza with a bomb over the left-field fence and Trent Baker's double combined with Sam Dwyer's single for the other run.

"If Cody's line drive hadn't hit a tree at least 380 feet from the plate it would have hit a house," Johnson said.

The teams traded single runs in the third. Bemidji's tally was courtesy of Ryan Hirt who belted a solo round-tripper to right-center.

"It was another no-doubter," Johnson said.

The Vets padded their lead to 6-2 in the fourth when Mason Bellew cleared the sacks with a bases-loaded double.

Detroit Lakes, which was the tournament's fifth seed, drew within 6-4 in the upper fifth but Bemidji responded with eight runs to put the game on ice.

The decisive frame featured doubles by Jenkins, Bellew and Baker, singles off the bats of Dwyer, Nick Hovila and Hirt plus two walks, a hit batter and an error.

Drew Peterson worked four innings and was the winning pitcher. Hirt tossed an inning in relief.

"It's good to get that first game out of the way," Johnson said. "We were the top seed and we really haven't seen much adversity against district opponents this year. But Detroit Lakes played very well and it took us until the fifth inning to find the spark that we needed."

Detroit Lakes 101 02 - 4 7 1

Bemidji VFW 021 38 - 14 12 1

Dorfff (L), Ziegler (5) and Gailfus. K-1, BB-3

Peterson (W), Hirt (5) and Leif. K-4, BB-3

VFW District Tournament

Thursday's Results

Game 1: Detroit Lakes 3, Fergus Falls 2

Game 2: Moorhead 8, East Grand Forks 6

Friday's Games

Game 3: Bemidji 14, Detroit Lakes 4

Game 4: Moorhead vs. Perham

Game 5: Fergus Falls vs. East Grand Forks (loser eliminated)

Game 6: Game 4 loser vs. Detroit Lakes (loser eliminated)

Today's Games

Game 7: Bemidji vs. Game 4 winner, noon

Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 3 p.m. (loser eliminated)

Game 9: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 winner, 6 p.m. (loser eliminated)

Sunday's Games

Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 1 p.m.

Game 11: Repeat of Game 10, following Game 10 (if necessary)

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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