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BASEBALL: Playoff loss doesn't spoil great season for Bemidji

In a rain-delayed playoff game late Thursday evening, Bemidji’s Billy Baumgartner lays down a bunt in the first inning against St. Michael-Albertville. The Knights beat the Lumberjacks 6-0, ending Bemidji’s season. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – When Bemidji High School baseball coach Mike Fogelson reflects on the 2013 season he will smile when remember the players and the team.

A year ago the Lumberjacks advanced to the Class 3A championship game at Target Field, falling 1-0 to Eastview in the title contest. Graduation, however, took a healthy bite into this year’s lineup and posting a winning record in 2013 was going to be a challenge.

Ending on the positive side of .500 seemed even more remote when BHS lost starting pitchers Ryan Hirt, James Hendricks and Brady Eckman because of injuries during the opening weekend of the campaign.

“We had high hopes for the year,” Fogelson said. “The early-season injuries made it tougher on us but I think we responded very well. I think we had a very good season.”

That season came to an end late Thursday night when Bemidji lost 6-0 to St. Michael-Albertville in a Section 8-3A elimination game at the Bemidji State diamond.

The Jacks finished 12-9 while the 11-9-1 Knights survived to play Moorhead 11 a.m. Monday in St. Cloud. Monday’s other elimination semifinal will pit Alexandria against either Sauk Rapids or Big Lake. Those two teams met Friday in Sauk Rapids in an elimination contest.

Brainerd and Rocori are the lone unbeatens in the double-elimination tourney and they will also tangle on Monday in the winner’s bracket final.

Thursday night the Lumberjacks could not muster much offense against STMA pitcher Brandon Rankila. The left-hander allowed only six hits and his defense played errorless ball.

“That lefty had very good movement,” Fogelson said. “He also changed speeds and kept the ball on the outer half of the plate.”

The visitors also struggled to put runs on the board and after five innings the game was scoreless.

The Knights finally broke the 0-0 deadlock when they turned a walk, a stolen base, a wild pitch and a fly ball into a 1-0 lead.

“That run in the sixth was the key run of the game,” Fogelson said. “It was a very good game and both teams were playing well. You knew that the first team to score was going to have the advantage and in the sixth St. Michael found a way to score.”

The Lumberjacks were retired in order in the bottom of the sixth and STMA ended all suspense with five runs in the upper seventh.

The inning featured an error, a walk, a single, a 2-run double and a 3-run round-tripper.

Devin Barrett doubled and Mitch Buckanaga singled to begin Bemidji’s seventh but Rankila retired the next three batters to complete the shutout.

“We wanted to go deeper into the playoffs but I think we had a very good season,” Fogelson said. We started 2-5 and finished 12-9 and that showed that we were playing good ball at the end of the year. The players, especially the seniors, did a nice job this spring.”

Those seniors include Nick Hovila, Connor McNallan, Billy Baumgartner, Drew Peterson, Barrett, Buckanaga, Mark Fenner, Adam Lewis and Cody Labernik.

“The kids began the year with high expectations and as the season continued their confidence grew,” the coach said. “They realized their roles, did a good job of responding to the adversity caused by the injuries and stepped up to the challenges.

“I’m going to look back at this year as a very successful season.”

Notes: Many of the high school players will play with the summer Legion program. That season will begin within the next two weeks. Fogelson has stepped down from the Legion head coaching duties and his successor will be Nate Blumhagen. Blumhagen is a 2008 BHS graduate and was a senior on the BSU baseball team this spring. The new VFW baseball coach is Ryan Sander, another Beaver baseball alumni.

Fogelson will continue to help guide the Legion and VFW programs as he will serve as a general manager for both teams.

St. Michael-Alb. 000  001  5  –  6  5  0

Bemidji           000  000  0  –  0  6  2

  Rankila (W) and Hackenmuller. K-5, BB-2

Peterson (L), Rutledge (7) and Buckanaga. K-6, BB-8

Section 8-3A Playoffs

Thursday’s Results

Winner’s Bracket

Brainerd 10, Alexandria 0

Rocori 2, Moorhead 0

Elimination Games

St. Michael-Albertville 6, Bemidji 0 (Bemidji eliminated)

Friday’s Elimination Game

Big Lake at Sauk Rapids

Monday’s Games

At St. Cloud

Game 1: St. Michael-Albertville vs. Moorhead (loser eliminated), 11 a.m.

Game 2: Alexandria vs. Sauk Rapids/Big Lake winner (loser eliminated), 11 a.m.

Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner (loser eliminated), 1:30 p.m.

Winner’s Bracket

Game 4: Brainerd vs. Rocori, 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday’s Games

At High Seed

Game 5: Game 2 winner vs. Game 3 loser, TBA (loser eliminated)


Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, TBA

Wednesday’s Game

Game 7: Repeat of Game 6 (if necessary) 

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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