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LEGION BASEBALL: Bemidji edges East Grand Forks, stays alive in Sub State tourney

Collin Rutledge takes a swing during the Bemidji American Legion baseball team’s game against East Grand Forks Friday in Perham. Robert Willians | Forum News Service1 / 2
Ryan Hirt throws a pitch swing during the Bemidji American Legion baseball team's game against East Grand Forks Friday in Perham. Robert Willians | Forum News Service2 / 2

PERHAM — After Thursday’s 7-3 loss to Perham in the late game of the double-elimination sub-state baseball tournament, no one would have been surprised to see Bemidji fall to No. 2 seeded East Grand Forks in Friday’s early-afternoon loser’s bracket contest.

Bemidji entered the tournament as the sixth seed and struggled Thursday against No. 3 Perham. But the Legion wasn’t ready to see its season end. Instead of making a quick exit from the tourney, Bemidji rose to the occasion and eliminated East Grand Forks 6-4.

Friday’s victory moved the Legion into Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against No. 8 Detroit Lakes. DL lost to No. 4 Alexandria 14-0 in their winner’s bracket semifinal game Friday.

If the Legion wins today at 1 p.m. it will continue its quest for a trip to the state tournament at 4 p.m. in another win-or-go-home contest. The winner of the Bemidji/Alexandria game will play either Moorhead or Perham.

“After losing to Perham it would have been very easy for us to call it quits and have our season end when we played East Grand Forks,” said Legion coach Nate Blumhagen. “Instead, we came out, we fought and we played well. And that was great to see.”

Ryan Hirt and Connor McNallan shared the pitching duties and the duo allowed only seven hits through the nine innings. East Grand Forks trailed 6-3 heading into its last at-bat and tested Bemidji to the end, loading the bases with two outs. A walk forced in a run but McNallan and his defense came through as the right-hander coaxed a fly ball to end the game.

“We have a long road ahead of us if we want to win the tournament but we’re still in the fight,” Blumhagen said. “And Friday’s win was a good start.”

After three scoreless innings Bemidji broke through for two runs in the upper fourth.

Singles by Collin Rutledge and McNallan combined with an error on Tony Geerdes’ ground ball to load the bases. The first run scored when Lucas Goins walked and a free pass to Erik Fitzgerald forced home McNallan.

After EGF drew within 2-1 in the fifth the Legion tallied twice in the sixth. Geerdes singled to begin the rally and he advanced courtesy of Goins’ sacrifice bunt. Fitzgerald followed with a walk and Geerdes scored as Parker Lucas doubled. Tom Revering capped the inning with a sacrifice fly to center.

Leading only 4-3 going into the ninth inning Bemidji added two key insurance runs when McNallan walked and James Hendricks ripped a home run to right-center. Those runs proved crucial as East Grand Forks scratched home a run in the lower ninth.

Rutledge paced the offense with three singles while Hendricks had a home run and a double.

“We haven’t figured out our pitching for Saturday,” Blumhagen said after Friday’s win. “We’ll probably use the Andersons (Seth Anderson and Cody Anderson) and Revering and Matt Morgan. A tournament with 9-inning games is different than 7-inning games in terms of the pitching staff but I think the longer we go into the tournament the better it is for us.

“Everybody will have to go (deep) into their pitching staff and we have many pitchers.”

Bemidji 6, East Grand Forks 4

Bemidji 000 202 002 - 6 9 0

E.G.Forks 000 011 011 - 4 7 1

Hirt (W), McNallan (6, S) and Revering. K-8, BB-3

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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