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Bemidji stays alive in Section 8-3A playoffs; hosts Brainerd today

BEMIDJI — The rain that had been threatening to fall throughout Bemidji’s Section 8-3A playoff game against Alexandria also helped end Bemidji’s scoring drought.

With Alexandria leading 1-0 through five and a half innings, the Lumberjacks came to bat in the bottom of the sixth staring elimination in the face. Up to that point they’d only managed four hits and no runs.

Then the heavens opened and the runs came.

Perhaps benefitting from the wet conditions, Bemidji scored three runs on a walk, three hits and two wild pitches. That was just enough to beat Alexandria 3-1 and advance to the second loser-out game against Big Lake.

Bemidji scored four runs in the bottom of the first and cruised to a 4-0 victory in the second game.

“We played well in both games today,” Bemidji head coach Brad Takkunen said. “The kids relaxed and had fun. That’s what we’d been striving for this whole postseason.”

With the two wins the Lumberjacks (19-4) advance to today’s next round of the Section 8-3A playoffs.

They’ll take on Brainerd at 3 p.m. in a rematch of Monday night’s game — a 7-4 Brainerd win. The winner will face Elk River at 5 p.m. in the championship series.

“Every run your team scores is a big confidence boost,” said BHS pitcher Jess Yost, who threw both games for the Lumberjacks.

“Once we got those three runs in the first game it was big for us.”

Yost mowed down Alexandria (17-6) early, striking out seven of the first 11 Cardinals hitters she faced.

However, a leadoff walk in the fifth inning to Alexandria’s Rachel Peterson — Yost’s only walk of the game — gave the Cardinals their only run after a sacrifice bunt and a single.

Bemidji countered in the sixth inning.

After Hannah Olson popped out to second base, Yost got the offense going with a single. Sylvia Grimm singled after her, and both runners moved up after a Mariah Dahl groundout.

Then the downpour started to affect Alexandria pitcher Taylor Ellingson.

She skipped a pitch to her catcher, allowing Yost to come home and tie the game.

Then she walked Jordyn Follis to put runners at the corners with two outs.

After a pair of foul balls by Bri Neumann, Ellingson skied a pitch that hit the backstop and allowed Annika Johnson — Grimm’s pinch runner — to come home and give Bemidji the lead.

Neumann gave the Jacks an insurance run minutes later with a line drive single.

“That might have been her best at-bat of the year,” Takkunen said of Neumann’s nine-pitch at-bat, which started out 0-2. “That run became huge, since they got some runners on in the seventh.”

Yost gave up a single in the seventh and another Alexandria player reached on an error, but Yost forced a groundout to end the game.

“Normally we are able to come out and score early,” Yost said. “We weren’t able to do that today but when we finally did it was a relief.

“And I think it carried over to the next game.”

The Lumberjacks scored all four of their runs in the first inning against the Hornets (16-9), but Yost wasn’t as sharp in the first inning as she was against Alexandria.

Big Lake loaded the bases with a walk, a base hit and an error but Yost struck out Erin Ralph to get out of the jam.

In their half of the inning, the Lumberjacks didn’t waste time.

Jasmin Yerbich reached on an error, as did Olson, putting runners at second and third with one out for Yost.

Yost destroyed a pitch from Big Lake hurler Kelli Poffenberger, sending it to deep center field and scoring Yerbich and Olson to put Bemidji up 2-0.

A Grimm single and another double — this one from Follis — gave Bemidji a 4-0 lead.

With that four-run cushion, Yost cruised against the Hornets the rest of the way, giving up just four more hits.

“Jess pitched extremely well today,” Takkunen said. “Her mindset was a lot better than it was against Brainerd. She was much more focused.”

Now the Lumberjacks get a rematch with the Warriors, who lost to Elk River 7-0 on Wednesday.

Yost expects to get the ball again today, and thinks she and her team have learned from their mistakes against Brainerd.

“We didn’t play the best game against them on Monday,” she said. “But we think we can come out on top this time.”

Bemidji 3, Alexandria 1

Alexandria 000 010 0 – 1 6 0

Bemidji 000 003 x – 3 7 1

Ellingson (L) and Kuennen. K-1, BB-2.

Yost (W) and Black. K-9, BB-1.

Bemidji 4, Big Lake 0

Big Lake 000 000 0 – 0 6 5

Bemidji 400 000 x – 4 7 2

Poffenberger (L) and Stein. K-5, BB-0.

Yost (W) and Black. K-4, BB-2.

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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