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AMATEUR BASEBALL: Blue Ox’s late heroics clinch Region 10C championship

Bemidji's late rally seized the Region 10C championship and a first-round bye in the state tournament.

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The Blue Ox celebrate after defeating Ada 3-2 to win the Region 10C championship on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at the BSU baseball field.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – Cody Rutledge didn’t want to come back on Sunday.

The Bemidji Blue Ox amateur baseball team player/manager stepped up to the plate with one out in the eighth inning and the score tied 2-2 against Ada at the BSU baseball field on Saturday. A Blue Ox win clinched the Region 10C championship and a first-round bye in the state tournament. A loss meant Bemidji returned to the diamond on Sunday morning to face Ada in a winner-take-all rematch.

Rutledge didn’t like that idea. So he worked a full count, then laced a line drive just over the high left-field wall, giving the Blue Ox a 3-2 lead with his solo home run. That was plenty of margin for Turner Storm, who closed it out in the ninth and bequeathed Bemidji the 3-2 win, a region championship and a well-deserved day off.

“We got lucky there and we squeaked ‘er out,” Rutledge said. “We didn't have our best stuff today, but hey, we battled through.”

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The Blue Ox congratulate Cody Rutledge, left, after he hit a home run in the eighth inning against Ada during the Region 10C championship series on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at the BSU baseball field.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The Blue Ox (17-1) were stymied for much of the game by Ada starter Zepher Resnick, who allowed just one hit through his first six innings pitched to afford the A’s a 2-0 lead. In the seventh, though, that trend began to change.

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With one out in the bottom of the frame, Caleb Manecke cracked a sharp single to left field for Bemidji’s second base knock of the contest. Collin Rutledge followed with another single, then Bazil Zuehlke worked deep into the count to get on base with a walk. With the bases loaded, Storm singled home Manecke and Collin Rutledge, and the Blue Ox were in business.

Prior to the Bemidji half of the seventh, Zuehlke implored the Blue Ox to show some energy, encouraging his teammates to get on base any way they could. They listened, and so did he.

“The biggest thing is just keeping ourselves light,” Zuehlke said. “We're not a team that gets down on ourselves very often. That's just part of being a collective group that always brings everybody up. Down our whole entire dugout, we're filled with leaders. Everybody was a leader during their age class or whatever team they played on. So it's just a reminder to keep it light, and we're still getting to have fun and play the greatest game alive.”

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Bemidji's Bazil Zuehlke catches the ball on first base for an out in the fifth inning against Ada during the Region 10C championship series on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at the BSU baseball field.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

After a shutdown inning by starting pitcher Isaiah Biehn in the top of the eighth, Bemidji was well positioned to seize control. Cody Rutledge did exactly that, and the rest was academic.

“It was bananas,” Zuehlke said of the dugout vibe after Rutledge’s homer. “It was a lot of fun. If there's going to be anybody to do it, it's going to be Cody. The kid has more of a clutch gene than anybody I've ever seen in my life.”

The Blue Ox now proceed to the state tournament, which starts on Aug. 19 in southern Minnesota.

It may have taken their bats a while to get going on Saturday, but that’s just proof Bemidji can win games in all sorts of ways.

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Bemidji's Isaiah Biehn throws a pitch in the fifth inning against Ada during the Region 10C championship series on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at the BSU baseball field.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“You saw it tonight here,” Rutledge said. “We just didn't have our stuff the whole game, and these guys still battled. And that's what I love about these guys, this team – they play for each other, and they want to win.”

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Biehn picked up the win on the mound for the Blue Ox, hurling eight innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. Resnick also pitched well for Ada but took the loss, firing an eight-inning complete game with three runs allowed on five hits.

Storm walked the leadoff batter in the ninth, and an Ada sacrifice advanced the runner to second base with one out. But the next batter lined out to Storm, who calmly tossed to second and doubled up the runner to seal the victory.

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Bemidji's Turner Storm throws a pitch in the ninth inning against Ada during the Region 10C championship series on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at the BSU baseball field.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji 3, Ada 2

ADA 002 000 000 – 2-6-1

BEM 000 000 21X – 3-5-0

WP: Biehn (8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K)

LP: Resnick (CG, 8 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K)

S: Storm

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Bemidji's Connor McNallan makes contact with the ball in the eighth inning against Ada during the Region 10C championship series on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at the BSU baseball field.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
081722.S.BP.BLUEOX Collin Rutledge.jpg
Bemidji's Collin Rutledge runs through third base to score in the seventh inning against Ada during the Region 10C championship series on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at the BSU baseball field.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: AMATEUR BASEBALLBASEBALL
Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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