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Bemidji begins Section 8-3A playoffs Monday against Sartell in Brainerd

BEMIDJI — A week ago the Bemidji High School baseball team was ranked 11th in the 12-team Section 8-3A field. Heading into Thursday’s game at Brainerd, and on the strength of a seven-game winning streak, the Lumberjacks had jumped into fourth place.

BHS lost its regular season finale, however, as the Warriors thumped the Jacks 10-3. That loss proved costly as the Section 8-3A playoff rankings were announced Friday and Bemidji found itself in fifth place.

If the Jacks had been able to maintain that fourth spot they would be home Monday and would have automatically advanced to the double-elimination quarterfinals.

Because it is fifth, however, BHS (11-7) will be on the road Monday and will make a return trip to Brainerd. The Lumberjacks will open their postseason in an elimination game against No. 12 Sartell (5-12). That contest will begin at noon.

If Bemidji disposes of Sartell it will have a rematch with fourth-ranked Brainerd (13-6). Win or lose that game, the Lumberjacks will play again on Thursday, either in the championship round or the elimination phase of the tournament.

Who they will play and the location of the game will be determined following the quarterfinals.

Alexandria (14-6) took the top seed while Sauk Rapids (9-6) was second, Big Lake (14-5) third and Brainerd fourth. The QRF rankings had a hand in the seedings but when those numbers were close among the teams section officials turned to the won-lost percentages and head-to-head outcomes to determine the final positions.

Bemidji finished with a 131.9 QRF while Brainerd was at 131.8. Monticello’s 136.3 QRF actually was the fourth best among the section teams but Monticello dropped to sixth in the seedings because its winning percentage on a 12-8 record was lower than both Brainerd’s and Bemidji’s.

“Thursday’s loss to Brainerd was costly,” said BHS coach Mike Fogelson. “But when you consider that we started at 2-5, the fact that we actually were playing for a home-field advantage in the last regular season game of the year is a testament to how well we recovered from that start.

“We could be in worse shape than we are,” the coach added.

Sartell is a relative unknown to the Lumberjacks but Fogelson believes that the section championship is up for grabs and that any team, including Sartell, has a legitimate shot at winning the title.

“There is parity in the section this year,” Fogelson said. “St. Michael was as high as the second seed a few weeks ago and now they are No. 9. This year I think everybody is a contender and I think everybody feels that they can win the section,” Fogelson said. “And we’re certainly in the mix.

“Whoever plays the best ball will win it and it will be interesting to see which teams will still be playing on Thursday,” the coach added.

Blackduck top seed in 8A

The Section 8A playoffs begin on Tuesday and defending section champion Blackduck (12-2) has earned the top seed in the East Division.

The Drakes will begin their title defense 4 p.m. Tuesday at home against No. 8 Red Lake (0-8).

Kelliher-Northome (4-7) is the fourth seed and will host No. 5 Northland-Remer (3-8). Cass Lake-Bena (0-7) is the sixth seed and will travel to No. 3 Lake of the Woods (7-5).

Laporte (0-9) is the seventh seed and will head to No. 2 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (8-5) in the opening round.

Tuesday’s winners advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament and will head to Bemidji State University on Thursday for the East Sub-Section semifinals and final.

The semifinal games will be at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. while the sub-section title game is set for 3 p.m. At 5:30 p.m. the semifinal losers will meet and the loser will be eliminated.

A similar tournament for the West Sub-Section teams will be played at Sacred Heart. Thursday’s winner’s bracket and loser’s bracket survivors will travel to Northland Community College in Thief River Falls and the championship game will be June 6, also at Northland Community College.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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