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This week at Bemidji High School: softball team earns top seed in playoffs

A week ago the Bemidji softball team was ranked fourth in the Section 8-3A QRF ratings and a home game in the opening round of the playoffs was not guaranteed.

The Lumberjacks entered the home stretch of the regular season with the intent of playing well, winning as many games as they could and seeing if that was good enough to secure a home-field advantage. That approach paid dividends last week as BHS went 5-0, sweeping Moorhead and Grand Rapids and blanking Cloquet 7-0.

The run capped a 16-3 regular season that included 11 consecutive victories down the stretch.

It also provided an unexpected benefit as the Lumberjacks jumped from the fourth seed in the section to the No. 1 seed. Owning the top seed has its rewards and among the benefits is hosting every section game that you play.

BHS will open its tournament Wednesday at home in the section quarterfinals and, because a team can bounce back through the loser’s bracket, the Lumberjacks are guaranteed at least two games.

Elk River seemed a lock for the top spot heading into the weekend but the Elks were upset 2-1 in eight innings by Maple Grove on Saturday and finished the spring 14-3. That loss dropped Elk River into the second seed and, if the rankings prevail during the section meet, the Elks would have to travel to Bemidji for the section championship final.

The final QRF ratings had Elk River owning 147.8 points, Alexandria 145.7 and Bemidji 143.9. There is a plus/minus margin of six points, however, and the state officials went to tie-breakers to determine the final seedings.

“I’m letting people who know more about the QRF than I do make the decisions,” said BHS coach Brad Takkunen. “I guess we held the tie-breakers over Elk River, Alexandria and the other teams so we were given the No. 1 seed.

“Now our job is to prove that we deserve it.”

The tournament begins with a series of play-in games and the teams involved in them must win to advance. The teams that reach the quarterfinals, however, will participate in a double-elimination affair.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday No. 8 St. Cloud Tech (6-10)) will battle No. 9 St. Cloud Apollo (5-14) and that winner will face Bemidji at 1 p.m.

The tournament continues on Memorial Day and the Lumberjacks, win or lose in the quarterfinals, will have the luxury of playing at home.

The section title game is May 30 and, if a second contest is required, it will be on May 31.

“If we play the way we are capable of playing, we’ll be fine,” Takkunen said. “We will need to have good at-bats, know what we need to do on the bases, catch the ball and throw the ball.

“If we make a mistake we need to make sure it doesn’t turn into a string of mistakes,” the coach continued.

Jess Yost will be on the mound Wednesday and throughout the playoffs. Defensively the Jacks will probably go with Courtney Black behind the plate, Sylvia Grimm at first, Jessa Lusby at second, Hanna Olson at short and Jordyn Follis at third.

The probable outfield will feature Bri Neumann in left, Jasmin Yerbich in center and either Karmen Clark or Mariah Dahl in right.

“I’m eager for the playoffs to get started,” Takkunen said. “This team has won many big games during their summer seasons and they are out to prove that we have a good team.

“We have to come out and play fearlessly,” the coach continued. “We have the talent and we need to focus on what we have to do.”

Tennis playoffs begin

Bemidji earned the No. 3 seed in the North Sub-Section 8-2A boys tennis rankings and will open the team tournament 10:30 a.m. today at Brainerd.

Playing outdoors is not an option because of the predicted rain so the section meet will be switched to the indoor facility in Sartell.

BHS drew No. 6 Moorhead in its section opener and the winner will advance to play No. 2 Brainerd about 2:30 p.m. today. That winner will advance to the Section 8-2A semifinals on May 28 where it will, most likely, meet Becker which is the top seed from the South Sub-Section.

The 8-2A title match also will be May 28.

St. Cloud Tech is the top seed from the North Sub-Section and will face either No. 4 Sartell or No. 5 Alexandria in today’s action.

Seasons winding down

The Bemidji track and field teams have been idle since May 9 when they participated in the Section 8-2A True Team meet.

The girls team was seventh in the nine-team field while the boys placed sixth.

The Lumberjacks will conclude their seasons Wednesday when they entertain Detroit Lakes, Grand Rapids and Moorhead for the annual BHS Quadrangular. The meet will start at 1 p.m.

The meet was originally scheduled for Tuesday but has been pushed back a day because of the predicted rain.

Wednesday’s competition will be the final chance for Bemidji to prepare for the section meet. Detroit Lakes will host the section preliminary meet on May 29 and the 8-2A finals are scheduled for May 31 in Sartell.

The state meet is June 7 at Hamline University in St. Paul.

The BHS baseball season is also coming to a close and the Jacks hope to make the most of their final five games.

After opening the spring 2-5 Bemidji has won seven of its last eight games and boasts a 9-6 record.

The Lumberjacks are coming off a 3-0 record at last weekend’s Des Sagedahl tournament, stopping Maple Grove, Duluth East and Roseau.

On Monday they were scheduled to conclude the home season with a doubleheader against Detroit Lakes. Today the Jacks will head to Moorhead for two games and on Thursday the regular season will end with a single game at Brainerd.

The 8-3A seedings will be determined later this week and the tournament will begin on Memorial Day at the homes of the higher seeds.

If BHS could go unbeaten this week there is an outside chance that they could jump into one of the top four spots and host a playoff game. But the Jacks will have to make up a tremendous amount of ground as they enter the final week, based on the QRF rankings, seeded 11th in the 12-team section.

Alexandria (12-5) is first in the QRF at 139.3 while Big Lake (12-4) is second with 132.0. Bemidji’s QRF is 86.1.

The golf teams are trying to make up for the practice and playing time they lost because of the extended winter. Today the girls head to Detroit Lakes while the boys will be at The Pines in Brainerd on Wednesday and at Greystone for the Melrose Invitational on Thursday.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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