BASEBALL: Brandon Lussier captaining Bemidji while rooted in Native American heritage

Brandon Lussier is the latest Native American player on the Bemidji High School baseball team, joining the likes of program legends John Buckanaga, Stan Drew, Gary Sargent and Earl Sargent.

Bemidji senior Brandon Lussier brings a flair of his Native American and Thai heritage to the baseball diamond, and his talents could help the Lumberjacks make a deep playoff run this year. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- When Brandon Lussier walks up to the plate at the BSU baseball field, a Native American drum beat echoes through the speakers.

That music is one way Lussier brings some of his flair to the diamond.

“That Native mentality of the song was pretty good,” Lussier said. “I liked that. It keeps the Native heritage in baseball with me.”

Lussier is not only a senior captain on the Bemidji High School baseball team, but he carries with him a Native American and Thai ancestry. So he’s representing even more than the Lumberjacks when he plays.

“Not a lot of Native kids come from Bemidji who are playing ball at the 3A, 4A, 5A level,” said Lussier, who also committed to the Bemidji State baseball program this week. “It’s a pretty good feeling to get my name out there and show everybody that anything can be done at any time.”


BHS enters next week’s Section 8-3A Tournament with lofty goals. If Bemidji is to reach the same heights as the 1973 team -- the lone state champion in program history -- Lussier will be the latest Native American pillar to lead the Jacks to glory.

Hearing names like John Buckanaga, Stan Drew, Gary Sargent and Earl Sargent bring veteran BHS fans back to a golden age. And those figures certainly haven’t been forgotten in today’s era.

“Our baseball program has a rich history of Native Americans, especially into the ‘70s,” head coach Mike Fogelson said. “We have a long, rich tradition of that heritage in our program, and (Lussier) is just the next guy in line representing that group. I’m proud to have him in our program.”

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Bemidji senior Brandon Lussier (13) throws to first base in the second inning against Sartell-St. Stephen on Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Sartell. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Like most of his teammates, Lussier carries a dangerous bat with him to the plate. He is hitting .304 this season, leads the team in doubles (seven), ranks second in RBIs (18) and is third in hits (21) and runs scored (23).

He’s been stellar on the mound, as well. He holds a 1.78 ERA and has as many strikeout victims as baserunners allowed (25).

“Brandon’s been in our program for four years now. He’s been really good since he’s been here,” Fogelson said. “Now, as a senior, he’s one of the best players on this team and a senior captain. He’s a huge part of what we’re doing here.”


Bemidji went 14-6 in the regular season, partly because of Lussier but largely through the team’s widespread talent. Fellow captains Isaiah Biehn and Aaron Heger are two of the more intimidating two-way players you’ll encounter in the Northland, and the entire lineup can produce one through nine.

It’s no wonder that Lussier and Co. have towering expectations.

“I want to show everybody that Bemidji is one of the top teams in the state, and to bring back a section title. That’s the No. 1 goal,” Lussier said. “Once we get to that checkpoint, I think winning state is the next point.”

Unlike last season, which was wiped out by the pandemic, they’ll have the chance to earn it this spring. The Section 8-3A Tournament bracket will be revealed today, with BHS set to host a first-round game at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 1.

The section tournament runs through June 10. If you want to dream even bigger, the Class 3A state championship game is scheduled for June 18.

A section rich with talent will try to stop the Jacks from their first state berth since 2012 -- a year that included a run all the way to the championship game -- but Bemidji isn’t focused on outside factors.

Like Lussier, the Lumberjacks are marching to the beat of their own drum.

“Most of the motivation for them comes from within. They’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and they’ve been working really hard at it,” Fogelson said. “Guys like Brandon and Isaiah and Heger, our captains, they’re leading the charge. However far we go, and hopefully we go all the way, they’re going to lead by example for this whole team.”


051521.S.BP.BHSBASE Brandon Lussier.jpg
Bemidji senior Brandon Lussier (13) throws to first base in the second inning against Sartell-St. Stephen on Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Sartell. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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