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VFW baseball team's success continues at state

Nick Johnson of St. Paul RanView safely slid into third base ahead of the attempted tag from Bemidji VFW third baseman Sam Dwyer. Johnson later scored but the Vets posted a 7-4 victory to advance to today's winner's bracket final against Worthington. Photo special to the Pioneer, Eric Johnson/Austin Daily Herald

The Bemidji VFW baseball team continued it success at the state tournament Friday as the Vets advanced to today's winner's bracket final with a 7-4 victory over St. Paul RanView.

Bemidji will meet Worthington at 1 p.m. today and that winner will be in the driver's seat for the state crown. The loser will move into the loser's bracket final and would have to claw its way back into the tournament championship series.

Already in the loser's bracket are Red Wing and New Ulm which met Friday night in an elimination game, and Austin and RanView. Those teams also battled late Friday.

The winners of those games will play at 4 p.m. today for the chance to face the loser of the Bemidji-Worthington contest. That game is set for 7 p.m. today and the winner will advance to Sunday's 11 a.m. game against the winner's bracket survivor.

A second game, if necessary, will follow.

"We are playing very well and it's fun coaching this team," said Bemidji coach Brad Johnson. "The team has come together and formed a family. Everybody, from the starters to the last guy on the bench, is into the team aspect. Everybody is running around, giving high-5s and supporting their teammates. And it's great to be a part of this."

Offense has been among Bemidji's strong suits during the tournament and Friday the Vets continued to attack, pounding 10 hits.

In the second inning the VFW opened the scoring as Cody Jenkins doubled, Connor McNallan walked and Sam Dwyer doubled both runners home.

RanView answered quickly, scoring twice in the top of the third. But the Vets responded with four in the lower half of the stanza to regain the momentum.

"It seems that when a team scores on us that serves as a trigger for us to respond," Johnson said. "As a coach, if I see that happen to us I'm deflated. And I'm sure us coming back with four runs right away deflated RanView."

Dom Hayle began the rally with a single and he moved to third on a stolen base and Mason Bellew's single.

Collin Leif plated Hayle with another single and, two outs later, McNallan drove in Bellew with an infield hit. Before RanView could escape the Vets would score two more runs on singles by Dwyer and Nick Conner.

The teams traded solo tallies in the middle innings. RanView scored in the fourth and in the sixth Bemidji used an error, Bellew's single and Leif's RBI groundout to collect its run and provide a 7-3 cushion.

"That run in the sixth was huge," Johnson said. "RanView had its 7-8-9 hitters coming to the plate in the seventh and the No. 7 hitter was the best hitter in their lineup. And he did it again with a line shot to center.

"He eventually scored but, because we had a 4-run lead, we could afford to give up that run."

Trent Baker started his second consecutive state tournament game and went the distance. In Thursday's opener Baker had trouble adjusting to a tight strike zone but Friday he relaxed and was in command. His numbers included eight hits, three strikeouts and four walks.

Ryan Hirt will get the starting nod today and Leif, Baker and Jenkins will be among the pitchers ready to relieve.

"We're 2-0 and we can't be in a better position in this tournament," Johnson said. "The game against Worthington is the biggest game of our season but I know we'll be ready. Our plan is single: take things one inning at a time and see what happens."

State VFW Baseball Tournament

At Austin

Friday's Result

Bemidji 7, RanView 4

RanView 002 100 1 - 3 8 3

Bemidji 024 001 x - 7 10 1

Asninson (L), Flood (3) and Newton. K-3, BB-4

Baker (W) and Leif. K-4, BB-1

Thursday's Results

Game 1: Alexandria 9, New Ulm 4

Game 2: Proctor 6, Austin 2

Game 3: Red Wing 10, St. Cloud 4

Game 4: Bemidji 17, Forest Lake 10

Game 5: Worthington 10, Alexandria 5

Game 6: St. Paul RanView 12, Proctor 1

Game 7: Austin 10, St. Cloud 4 (St. Cloud eliminated)

Game 8: New Ulm 17, Forest Lake 2 (Forest Lake eliminated)

Friday's Games

Game 9: Austin 8, Alexandria 4 (Alexandria eliminated)

Game 10: New Ulm 12, Proctor 11 (Proctor eliminated)

Game 11: Worthington 10, Red Wing 6, 8 innings

Game 12: Bemidji vs. 7, RanView 4

Game 13: Game 10 winner vs. Game 11 loser, n (loser eliminated)

Game 14: Game 9 winner vs. Game 12 loser, n (loser eliminated)

Today's Games

Game 15: Game 11 winner vs. Game 12 winner, 1 p.m.

Game 16: Game 13 winner vs. Game 14 winner, 4 p.m. (loser eliminated)

Game 17: Game 15 loser vs. Game 16 winner, 7 p.m. (loser eliminated, winner advances to championship series)

Sunday's Games

Game 18: Game 15 winner vs. Game 17 winner, 11 a.m.

Game 19: Repeat of Game 18, if necessary

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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