Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.
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The extended winter has affected the spring Bemidji High School schedules as today's baseball games in the St. Cloud area and girls golf meet at Cragun's have been postponed and softball has been moved to a different venue indoors. The baseball team was supposed to play at Sartell and at Sauk Rapids today but the weather has forced a change in plans. The game against Sartell will be played May 5 at 4:30 p.m. in Sartell while the Sauk Rapids contest has been rescheduled for 1 p.m. May 14 in Bemidji. Another change finds the April 25 contest at Grand Forks Red River switched from a 4:30 p.m.
Thursday's weather conditions were not conducive to tennis but the Bemidji High School boys team braved the conditions and hosted Grand Rapids and Park Rapids. The Lumberjacks lost 6-1 to the Thunderhawks in the opener but recovered to down Park Rapids 7-0. "We thought about cancelling but I'm glad we were able to get the matches in," said BHS coach Mark Fodness.
The wintry weather conditions continue to haunt the area sports scene and today's forecast of cold, wind and possible snow has forced Bemidji State University track and field coach Craig Hougen to move some of the events of today's Beaver Relays to the BSU Rec Center. Originally scheduled as an outdoor meet, at least some of the events at the Beaver Relays will be held indoors.
High water, cold temperatures and a snowflake or two are expected to greet area anglers who decide to don their waders and hit the streams for Saturday's Minnesota stream trout opener. The forecast calls for lows in the 20s, morning snow showers and a high of 44 degrees.
Red Lake coach Jason Niemi is trying to make baseball a priority in Red Lake and, slowly but surely, he appears to be accomplishing that task. "We have 14 kids out for the high school team and 19 on the middle school team," Niemi said. "Our numbers are getting stronger. The kids are vested in baseball now and that's very positive for the program." The increased interest in baseball has translated into victories for the varsity and Niemi expects that trend to continue. "We went nine years without a baseball win at Red Lake but last spring we won four games," Niemi said.
Improving your golf game is something that usually occurs over time but in 2010 the improvement of the Blackduck boys golfers was quick and dramatic. "Last year we went from shooting in the mid-50s early in the season to the mid-40s by season's end," said Drakes coach Jeremy Berg.
High school athletics usually follow a cyclical pattern. During the high points of the cycle a group of talented athletes dominates and the team enjoys success. A few years later the situation can be reversed and victories can be few and far between. The Bagley-Fosston girls track and field team currently is enjoying the former situation. "We won the state championship in 2009 and last year we were third," said Bagley-Fosston coach Doug Carlson.
A section championship appears to be within reach of the Blackduck girls golf team as the Drakes were in the top four a year ago and return their entire roster. "We could be in the hunt," said Blackduck coach Jeremy Berg. "We don't have a sub-section in Section 7A and our goal is to peak at sections." Leading the Drakes are seniors Faith Pomp and Erin Haws. Also returning are junior Oxana Pfannenstein, sophomores Morgan Young and Madison Stelton plus eighth-graders Kelsey Olson and Sasha Pfannenstein. "We have 40 kids in the program from sixth grade to 12th grade," Berg said.
The boys track and field program at Blackduck-Kelliher-Northome is on solid footing as this year's roster includes students from the seventh grade to the senior class. "We're young but we have quite a bit of experience," said coach Jim Schneider. Among the veterans are junior Tyler Hughes and sophomores Caleb Schneider and Keith Shaughnessy. All three represented the Bulldogs at last year's section meet and the coach believes that the trio should challenge for section berths again this spring. Hughes is a hurdler while Shaughnessy runs the 400 and high jumps.
The 2011 golf season officially began this week and by Friday many of the area courses will be welcoming golfers. Maple Ridge and Sandtrap in Cass Lake opened Wednesday and at noon today the Bemidji Town & Country Club is scheduled to begin its season. Weather permitting, officials at Maple Ridge plan to open 9 a.m.