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Quest continues: Bemidji baseball on the verge of state, but still has some work to do

Mason Bellow practices bunting on Friday afternoon as the baseball team prepares for Section 8AAA playoffs today in St. Cloud. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

ST. CLOUD - The road to the state tournament continues 11 a.m. today for the Bemidji High School baseball team as the Lumberjacks battle fourth-seeded St. Michael-Albertville in the semifinals of the Section 8-3A tournament at the MAC Complex in St. Cloud.

BHS will also play at 2 p.m. today. The 2 p.m. opponent will be either second-seeded St. Cloud Apollo or No. 3 Rocori. Those teams will lock horns in today's other 11 a.m. semifinal. The morning survivors will tangle in the winner's bracket while the losers will meet in an elimination contest.

Bemidji enters today's action with a 20-1 record and the top seed in the Section 8-3A meet. The Lumberjacks also own the top QRF ranking among Minnesota's high schools (150.1) and are rated third in the state baseball coaches' poll. Burnsville leads that list while Maple Grove is second.

St. Cloud Apollo (19-1) is eighth in the coaches' poll and fourth in the computer generated QRF which gives a team a point total based on its record and its strength of schedule.

BHS has been off since belting Sauk Rapids 13-3 Monday in the second round of the section tournament. St. Michael advanced with a 3-2 victory over Alexandria.

Monday's other second round results saw Apollo shade Big Lake 4-3 and Rocori stop Sartell 6-5.

"We're 20-1 and have accomplished some things this spring but we know that there is much more that we need to do," said Jacks coach Mike Fogelson. "We are entering the game with a focus on what we want to accomplish.

"We don't know much about St. Michael other than St. Michael is 14-7 and we have played some common opponents," Fogelson continued. "We also know that we can't control who we play but we can control how we play and how we play will be the key to what we accomplish."

On way to last year's section championship Bemidji lost in the winner's bracket final but won three elimination games to claim the crown. They would like to avoid that route this spring.

"The best way for us to win the championship is to win both games on Saturday and that starts with the first game against St. Michael," Fogelson said.

Ryan Hirt (8-0) will pitch against St. Michael-Albertville and Cody Jenkins (5-0) is scheduled to start in the second game.

With Hirt on the mound Bemidji's lineup will see Nick Hovila (.417) in left, Mitchell Hendricks (.425) at short, Cody Rutledge (.493) in center, Collin Leif (.420) behind the plate, Cody Jenkins (.333) at second, Mason Bellew (.348) at first, Nick Conner (.403) as the designated hitter), Sam Dwyer (.327) in right and Connor McNallan (.345) at third.

Rutledge finished the regular season leading the state in runs scored with 34 and was tied for second in RBI with 31. Hirt's seven regular-season pitching victories ranked fifth among the state's prep hurlers.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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