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SOFTBALL: Focus pays off as Jacks come back to beat Buffalo 4-3

Bemidji third baseman Paige Conkle takes a high throw and can’t quite put the tag on Buffalo’s Chelsey Benson, who took the base on a passed ball Fridat during Bemidji’s home opener. Despite the play Bemidji won the game 4-3. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — For the past few weeks the Bemidji High School softball players and coaches have worked on developing tunnel vision and concentrating only on the job at hand.

The ability to accomplish that task paid dividends during Friday’s 4-3 victory over Buffalo in the Lumberjacks’ home debut.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth and the game tied at 2-2, Bemidji’s Jess Yost walked and stole second. Jordyn Follis followed in the batting order and immediately found herself in the hole with two strikes.

Follis, however, fouled off half a dozen pitches and during that span, Yost was able to gain third on a wild pitch.

Follis eventually won the battle at the plate, coaxing a walk. The extended at-bat irked Buffalo pitcher Bailey Braatz and on the first pitch to Mariah Dahl, Braatz threw it past her catcher and Yost scored the go-ahead run.

Buffalo came back to tie the game with a solo home run in the top of the seventh, but in the home half of the frame Courtney Black delivered a two-out single up the middle to plate pinch runner Paige Conkle with the winning run.

BHS coach Brad Takkunen was impressed with Follis’ never-say-die at-bat and also with the way the Jacks bounced back in the bottom of the seventh.

“This year we’ve focused on the mental part of the game,” Takkunen said. “We’ve focused on doing what we can do. Jordyn stayed focused on doing something with that at-bat and she came through with a tremendous plate appearance.”

The coach feels that this year’s team is a special group and that their experience should carry them a long way. Friday that experience led the Jacks to a victory.

“If we give up that tying home run in the seventh inning a year or two ago it would have collapsed the team,” Takkunen said. “But this year, with this group, it was like water off our back. We brushed that off and went back to work and what more could you ask for.”

For three innings Bemidji was not at its best. The offense did nothing during that span as five of the 10 batters struck out.

Buffalo fared better at the plate as the Bison had runners in scoring position in every inning but the sixth. A pair of singles to open the Buffalo third inning opened the door for a pair of runs and a 2-0 Bison lead.

BHS’s attack finally surfaced in the fourth and jump- starting the offense were Hanna Olson and Yost, who both delivered singles. Follis followed with a groundball single up the middle which scored both runners and tied the game at 2-2.

In her next plate appearance Follis worked for her walk and the Lumberjacks took their first lead of the evening.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Buffalo tied the game with the home run in the seventh.

In the home half of the stanza Sylvia Grimm ignited the game-winning rally with a hard single to third. After Jessa Lusby bunted Grimm to second, Conkle entered as a pinch runner.

A passed ball moved Conkle to third and with two out Black singled sharply to center and Conkle trotted home with the winning run.

Yost went the distance on the mound and earned the victory. The senior struck out seven and walked only one.

Bemidji, 9-3, returns to duty today in Detroit Lakes. The Jacks will play Thief River Falls at 12:30 p.m. and then battle Detroit Lakes at 2 p.m.

Buffalo    002 000 1 – 3 8 1

Bemidji    000 201 1 – 4 5 3

DeMarais, Braatz (L) (50 and Duske. K-7, BB-4

Yost (W) and Black. K-7, BB-1   

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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