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This week at BHS: Baseball 8-3A final four rescheduled for Saturday

Heading into the top of the third inning Monday in the Section 8-3A elimination game against Big Lake the Bemidji baseball team trailed 6-1. The Hornets had countered Bemidji's first-inning run with two in their half of the opening stanza and four more in the bottom of the second.

Some teams might have considered the deficit too steep to overcome. According to Tyler Follis, who was on the mound in Monday's contest, however, the Lumberjacks did not adopt that philosophy.

"Coach (Mike) Fogelson told us that all we needed to do was plug away one run at a time," Follis said. "We had to get our bats going and get them going one at-bat at a time. There was no reason to panic because we knew what we can do when we get the offense going."

Follis did his part as he fashioned a streak which included retiring 14 of 15 batters throughout the middle innings. Bemidji's defense did its part by making all of the plays. And the offense followed its coach's advice, scoring a run in the third and another in the fourth to set up the decisive four-run sixth inning.

When Follis retired Aaron Long with the tying run on third base in the bottom of the seventh BHS had an 8-7 victory and a berth in the Section 8-3A final four.

"We knew what was at stake," Follis said. "There were two evenly matched teams and we really didn't want to see our season come to an end. We wanted to keep playing."

The reward for defeating St. Cloud Tech 4-1 and Big Lake 8-7 on Monday is a trip to the section's final four. Section officials initially planned to stage that portion of the tournament beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday at the baseball complex in St. Cloud.

But Bemidji's graduation on Saturday threw a wrench into those plans and following Monday's action it was announced that the games had been moved to 10 a.m. Friday.

There was one major flaw in that schedule, however. In order for Bemidji's players to make it to St. Cloud in time to play at 10 a.m. the Lumberjacks would need a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call. That is asking too much of high school kids and with some prodding from Bemidji's administration the rest of the section officials reconsidered.

The first round of the section final four is now scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, following graduation, in St. Cloud. The first-round winners and first-round losers will play their second game the same day at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday's three survivors will return to St. Cloud on June 7 for the section finals.

The section's original tournament schedule also had seventh-seeded BHS in the lower bracket along with second-seeded Big Lake and No. 3 Alexandria. When the Lumberjacks upset Big Lake they drew Alexandria in the final four opener.

Top-seeded Brainerd was in the bracket with No. 5 Sauk Rapids and those teams were listed as opponents for Saturday.

The section bylaws, however, allow for reseeding after the preliminary rounds so that the top seed plays the lowest remaining team. As a result of that change, Bemidji will now face Brainerd in Saturday's final four opener while Alexandria will battle Sauk Rapids.

"We have played Brainerd twice this year and split," Follis said. "We know everything about Brainerd and they know everything about us. There will be no surprises. Now it's just a matter of us getting the job done."

In the regular season opener Zach Solheim pitched the Jacks to a 3-0 win over the Warriors. On May 6 Brainerd returned the favor 3-2.

BHS is 1-2 against the other teams in the final four, losing 15-12 and 10-9 at Alexandria on April 29 but defeating Sauk Rapids 4-3 two weeks ago in Bemidji.

"None of the remaining teams has an advantage," Follis said. "We are evenly matched and we all have one or two tournament wins. Now it comes down to which team wants it more."

Tuesday Follis also learned that he has been selected to play in this summer's Lions All-Star game in Chaska. The series, which matches the top 20 seniors from the North, South, East Metro and West Metro, will be played June 23-24.

"I'm very excited," Follis, a shortstop, said. "I talked to (former Lumberjack) Simon Anderson who pitched in this series a few years ago and he told me about the great atmosphere and the level of competition. All of the best senior players in the state will be there and I'm looking forward to being one of them."

The Jacks return to Brainerd today for the finals of the Section 8-3A softball tournament.

BHS will square off against Elk River at 4 p.m. and the loser will be eliminated. The winner, however, will advance to the championship series and a 6 p.m. game against undefeated Brainerd.

A second game, if necessary, will be played 5 p.m. Thursday.

On Monday the Lumberjacks defeated Elk River 2-1 but fell to Brainerd 8-3. Elk River survived with a 2-1 win over Big Lake in the loser's bracket.

The track and field teams head to Detroit Lakes today for the opening round of the 8-2A meet. Today's schedule features the finals in the field events and the 3200 plus the preliminary heat races in the other events.

The top nine finishers in the running heats will travel to St. Cloud Apollo on Friday.

"This is the fun part of the season," said BHS girls coach Chris Lehman. "For the past three months we have worked very hard and now we get the chance to experience the rewards. We're rested and we're ready and we should have some good performances."

Among those Lehman expects to do well are Maea Wall in the 400, Kim Truedson, Bailey Drewes and Jenna Truedson in the distance events plus Amanda Hunt and Allie Heifort in the field events.

The girls golf team will begin its postseason Thursday at Long Prairie while the boys will open today at Greystone in Sauk Centre.

The second round of the girls meet, which will include the top four teams and the top individuals after Thursday's action, will be Friday. The boys will stage their second round on Thursday.

Representing the girls at the section will be Meg Phelps, Katelin Craft, Erin Buckanaga, Kelsey Isaacson, Amy Frosaker and either McKenzie Schultz, Morgan Miller or Hailey Hinners.

The boys squad is expected to include Kodi Craft, Trey Dale, Elliot Leinen, Max Hazelton, Jordan Manick and Kaleb Hanson.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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