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Northern Heat faces Missouri in Cal Ripken regional play

Bemidji's Northern Heat makes its third try in five years to gain a berth in the national Cal Ripken tournament when it opens regional play at Kalona, Iowa today, taking on the Missouri champion in the quarterfinals.

South Dakota goes against Iowa in the other upper bracket opener.

In the lower, Kansas and Colorado meet in one game and North Dakota's Grand Forks Warriors tackle Tri County, the host team in the other.

Originally, the meet was set for nine teams with a Canadian team added to the field.

But Canada withdrew leaving a more manageable eight-team field.

Bemidji made the regional in 2006 and competed well though failing to reach the nationals.

Two years ago it defeated Litchfield, Baxter, Thief River Falls and East Grand Forks at the state, ,outscoring those four opponents 51-5 with Cody Rut ledge winning the first and fourth games and Brady Eckman and Ryan Hirt taking games 2 and 3.

At the regional, Bemidji won all four starts, besting LaButte Co., Kansas 7-0 behind Hirt, Minot N.D. 3-1 with Rutledge on the hill, Boonville, Mo. 2-1 and Minot again 3-2 with Hirt picking up his second win.

They carried a 32-5 record to Martin, Tenn. for the nationals, Bemidji's first and only national appearance in the 24-year history of the Bemidji Youth League.

It paid the price for that level of play in the opener, beaten 14-0 by Bear, Del., a Wilmington suburb.

But it rallied to stop Martin 1-0 behind Hirt, and after an 18-0 blowout to Visalia, Cal. came back to hold So. Daytona, Fla. to a 5-4 victory in its fourth game, Hirt again the pitcher of record.

Rutledge is now pitching and playing center field for the Legion while Hirt is a mound mainstay and first baseman of the VFW.

This year's team carries a 23-10 record into battle, having played in five major tournaments before the state meet.

It went 5-0 at the state opening with a 24-0 blowout over Crookston and a 14-4 decision over Litchfield.

Defending champion Baxter became the third victim 8-0.

In the winners' bracket final, James Swiggum held sway in a 2-1 win over the East Twins of St. Paul.

In the title game lefty Tarron Baker was even better, blanking Waite Park 3-0.

Bemidji displayed timely hitting and staunch defense in all five games piling up a 48-5 differential in run production .

Four of the five runs came from Litchfield in the top of the first inning.

By the end of the third, Bemidji had the game well in hand as Swiggum put together fi8e scoreless innings after the first.

He won the second and fourth games and Baker took the first, third and fifth.

Should a third hurler be needed, Tony Geerdes would get the call, If a fourth is called for, it likely would be Erik Fitzgerald.

Josh Cervenka, Dylan Parsons and Grant Kapaun also have seen mound action during the summer.

Veterans Mark Elliott and BYL President Bruce Dahlin head the coaching staff aided this year by Joe Kapaun.

Rounding out the playing squad are Cameron Boen, Grant Carlson, Jack Johnson, Nick Leitner and Andrew Matsen.

Bemidji has met Gran d Forks, bowing to the Warriors 15-3 for their only loss in seven starts at the Coca Cola classic here earlier this month.

Grand Forks lost to Bismarck 8-6 in the title game but reversed that decision with a 13-0 rout in the North Dakota state championship game.

Should Bemidji take its opener today, it would play at 5 p.m. tomorrow in the semifinal and 3 p.m. Saturday in the winners' bracket final.

If it loses today, it begins losers' bracket play tomorrow at 1 and would have to win twice Saturday and twice Sunday to reach the title game Monday.

Winning the first two games is almost a necessity to eventually gaining the final.