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Baseball: Jacks rally to edge St. Cloud Tech 6-5

Bemidji's James Hendricks steals second base, sliding around the tag of St. Cloud Tech shortstop Chase Aleshire during Thursday night's Section 8-3A playoff game at BSU. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
St. Cloud Tech’s Tanner Skaja tags from third on a fly ball to left field but is tagged out by Bemidji catcher Matthew Morgan during Thursday night’s Section 8-3A playoff game. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- For the second time in as many Section 8-3A playoff games, the Bemidji baseball team fell behind early to St. Cloud Tech in Thursday's winner's bracket semifinals at the BSU diamond.

But for the second time the Lumberjacks were able to rally to a victory as Lucas Goins punched a single to right in the bottom of the seventh to plate Collin Rutledge and give BHS a 6-5 win.

Thursday's victory advanced Bemidji into Monday's winner's bracket final and a 1 p.m. game in St. Cloud against Brainerd. BHS is the second seed in the section while the Warriors are the top seed.

The decisive seventh began when Rutledge singled and advanced on a wild pitch. Ryan Hirt was intentionally walked after the wild pitch to set up the force but the tactic backfired when Goins protected the plate with two strikes, put the bat on the ball and singled in the winning run.

The comeback was needed as St. Cloud Tech forged a 3-0 lead after three innings. And the Lumberjacks were fortunate to be behind only by the three runs.

In the top of the first St. Cloud Tech had runners at the corners with only one out when Chase Aleshire sent a bloop behind third that was destined to hit the line. BHS left fielder Parker Lucas made a diving catch, however, and his throw to catcher Matt Morgan was on target and in time to nail Tanner Skaja who had tagged and tried to score from third.

In the second inning the Lumberjacks yielded a run but the Tigers stranded three runners. Jake Martig tripled with one out and two walks by Rutledge, who started on the BHS mound, loaded the bases. A wild pitch plated Martig but Rutledge sandwiched a strikeout and a lineout to center around another walk.

The Tigers scored twice more in the third but, again, stranded the bases loaded. Seth Anderson relieved Rutledge during the inning and went the rest of the way.

The Lumberjacks started their comeback with three gift runs in the fourth. With two outs and runners at first and second, Tony Geerdes sent a routine fly to right but the Tech outfielder stumbled and fell and the ball dropped behind him for a 2-run double. Parker Lucas followed with a double down the left field line and Geerdes scored the tying run.

St. Cloud Tech regained the lead in the upper fifth when a hit batter, two wild pitches and a double combined for a run. BHS, however, had the answer as Rutledge's one-out single, Ryan Hirt's booming triple and Goin's sacrifice fly produced two runs and gave the Lumberjacks a 5-4 lead.

Bemidji maintained the 1-run advantage until the seventh when a two-out error opened the door for an unearned run.

That tally, however, set the stage for the dramatic home half of the inning which was capped by Goins' RBI single.

The Jacks committed two errors but also profited by brilliant plays by each of the outfielders. In the first inning Lucas saved a run with his diving catch and throw home and in the fifth Rutledge raced to his left and speared a line drive off the bat of Tanner Skana which seemed destined for the gap.

Tyler Geerdes joined the highlight reel in the seventh when his diving grab of Aleshire's liner produced the third out and saved as least two runs.

Anderson earned his second playoff pitching win in his second relief appearance, relieving Rutledge in the third inning and going the rest of the way.

Offensively Bemidji was led by Hirt who had a double and a triple. Tony Geerdes contributed a double and a single and Rutledge had two singles.

S.C.Tech 012 010 1 - 5 9 0

Bemidji 000 320 1 - 6 9 2

Mohs, D.Shoberg (4), Matchinsky (6, L) and Voigt, Cash (5), Carlson (7). K-5, BB-3

Rutledge, Anderson (3, W) and Morgan. K-2, BB-7

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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