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Baseball: Bemidji drops into elimination bracket after losing to Brainerd in Section 8-3A

ST. CLOUD -- The Bemidji High School baseball team is still in the hunt for a state tournament berth but the Lumberjacks’ road to the state became rockier Tuesday when they lost 10-4 to Brainerd in the Section 8-3A winners’ bracket final.

Tuesday’s setback dropped BHS into the elimination portion of the tournament and now Bemidji (16-5) must win three more games in order to reach the state tournament.

The first assignment will be defeating Alexandria (18-6) in today’s 5 p.m. contest at Putz Field in St. Cloud. That winner will advance to the championship series and take on Brainerd at 7 p.m. today. If Brainerd falls and a rematch is required, it will be played 1:30 p.m. Thursday, also at Putz Stadium.

“We’re going to have to pitch a very good game and have our hitting shoes on,” BHS coach Mike Fogelson said of today’s game. “There are three good teams left in the section tournament and we just have be a little better than the other two.”

Bemidji and Alexandria split a doubleheader early in the season at Alexandria. The Jacks took the opener 4-2 while the Cardinals claimed the rematch 4-3.

Tuesday against Brainerd the Lumberjacks struggled at the plate and dug themselves another early hole. The Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Tory Miller singled and Nate DeChaine ripped a home run to right off Bemidji left-hander Ryan Hirt.

BHS stranded the bases loaded in the second inning and missed a golden opportunity to put more runs on the scoreboard in the third.

Dan Johnson walked to open the stanza and gained second with the help of a wild pickoff throw. Erik Fitzgerald followed with an RBI double and a wild pitch moved him to third.

Brainerd pitcher T.J. Graumann, however, escaped further damage when a pair of strikeouts and an infield out retired the Jacks.

“We had some chances early with runners in scoring position but we couldn’t get the key hit and we couldn’t get the job done,” Fogelson said. “We just left too many runners on base against a team that can score.”

The 2-1 deficit remained until the fifth when Brainerd struck for three runs. The key blow was Streiff’s 2-run triple and he later scored on a passed ball.

In the bottom of the sixth the Warriors iced their win by scoring five runs. The inning included Miller’s RBI triple, two walks and Streiff’s 3-run blast over the left field screen.

“Brainerd scores with its power while we have to manufacture most of our runs,” Fogelson said. “And that is why it is important for us to score when we move runners into position.”

The Lumberjacks combined Thomas Revering’s double and Tony Geerdes’ single into a run in the sixth and were able to plate a pair of runners in the seventh. Johnson walked and, after two groundouts, scored when Collin Rutledge singled to right. Rutledge crossed home a few pitches later courtesy of Hirt’s double.

By that time, however, the outcome had been decided.

Johnson walked twice and scored both times. BHS managed only seven hits, including a pair of singles by Geerdes and doubles by Fitzgerald, Revering and Hirt.

Hirt took the loss, yielding five runs, four earned runs and and eight hits in five innings of work. Matthew Morgan pitched the sixth and gave up five runs.

Bemidji 001 001 2 - 4 7 0

Brainerd 200 035 x - 10 11 2

Hirt (L), Morgan (6) and Revering. K-6, BB-6

Graumann (W), Solid (7) and DeChaine. K-9, BB-4

1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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