SOFTBALL: Wind causes woes in 11-9 Bemidji loss
BEMIDJI -- Strong winds were a big factor for the Bemidji High School softball team on Thursday, but it was much more apparent when the Lumberjacks were in the field as opposed to at the plate.
Duluth Denfeld put the ball in play and forced BHS to make plays while fighting the wind. In contrast, Bemidji batters struck out 14 times on the afternoon to make the difference in an 11-9 Lumberjack loss at the BHS softball field.
“In my opinion, whether we have the wind or not, it’s important to get that ball in play,” BHS head coach Brad Takkunen said. “You get 14 outs (on strikeouts), and you have 21 outs (in total)? That’s not a lot of pressure you’re putting on them, so that’s pretty significant.”
Haley Larson gave Denfeld (3-0) a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single, but then Samantha Edlund doubled to lead off the bottom half, trotting home soon after on a Makenna Quinn RBI single for a 1-1 deadlock.
The Hunters regained the lead at 3-1 in the third on a Bella Larson home run, but then Bemidji (2-3) exploded for a six-run frame to grab a 7-3 advantage through three. The first seven batters of the inning reached safely, and Emma Stanoch and Maddie Hanson both picked up two-run singles to power the rally.
The Jacks successfully defended their lead through five frames even though Denfeld made pushes to even things up. Another two-run homer was launched over the left field fence in the fourth, followed by another run in the fifth, but Evette Morgan dropped a shallow single into left to keep the BHS edge at 9-6 entering the sixth.
Things then went awry in a hurry for the Lumberjacks, though. The wind altered pop-ups and fly balls, and sure outs turned to errors to open the door for a Hunter comeback.
“It was 9-6 and 8-5, and you’d think that’d be enough of a lead,” Takkunen said, “but when you start giving them three extra outs in the last two innings -- and it ends up being six or seven extra outs -- you’re not going to win. Not at the varsity level. You just can’t keep giving good teams, can’t give bad teams, can’t give any team extra outs.”
Larson socked a two-run triple to the gap in right-center, tying the game at 9-all. Soon after, she scampered into home on a wild pitch to put Denfeld ahead 10-9. Shelby Johnson added an RBI single in the seventh, and the Lumberjacks were sent down quietly during their last ups for the 11-9 final.
“There were some things that were out of our control, but at the same time, we have to... trust our abilities to hit the ball and put the ball in play,” Takkunen said.
Morgan finished 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Annika Takkunen and Quinn also batted 3-for-5 and 2-for-3, respectively. Gabbi Takkunen started in the circle, pitching four innings, allowing four earned runs and striking out three in a no-decision.
Strikeouts at the plate and mishaps in the field overshadowed the finish, but coach Takkunen said the focus is on returning to form mentally.
“The next step is to try to find that competitiveness again, that toughness, that I know these kids can have,” he said. “Because right now, they’re doubting their abilities a little bit. It doesn’t help that the wind was like it was, but at the same time… we just have to be able to have the confidence that, ‘Hey, I can make that play,’ and then go get it.”
Bemidji will return to action at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 28, for the Grand Rapids Invitational against the Thunderhawks and Hermantown.
Duluth Denfeld 11, Bemidji 9
DD 102 214 1 -- 11-13-0
BHS 106 110 0 -- 9-14-5
WP -- Schneeweis: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO
LP -- Morgan: 3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO