BASEBALL: Centaurs rally within 5-4, bow to Moorhead in Sub-State 14 championship
Down 5-0 with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the seventh, the Centaurs made things mighty interesting with a furious, out-of-nowhere blitz.
FERGUS FALLS -- A case of the Blues turned out to be the cause of death for the Bemidji American Legion baseball team on Sunday.
The Centaurs succumbed 5-4 to Moorhead in the Sub-State 14 championship game at Fergus Falls, as the Blues stopped Bemidji’s eleventh-hour comeback and denied the Centaurs their first state berth since 2016.
“Obviously we put on a ferocious barrage at the end,” Bemidji head coach Nate Blumhagen said, “but it was one hit short.”
Down 5-0 with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the seventh, the Centaurs made things mighty interesting with a furious, out-of-nowhere blitz. They scored three runs on Grant DeClusin’s bases-clearing single, and Ty Lundeen followed with an RBI double to put the tying run on second base.
The comeback ended 180 feet short, though, as a strikeout ended the drama and allowed Moorhead to celebrate the victory all the same.
“This group continued to push all day long,” Blumhagen said. “Unfortunately, we had runners on base in just about every inning (and) the timely hit just didn’t happen.”
While the late rally was a momentum-swinger, Bemidji dug itself too deep a hole for it to make a difference. Through six innings, the top-seeded Centaurs left all seven runners on base, six of which were stranded in scoring position. Meanwhile, the second-seeded Blues spread out their offensive production throughout the day.
“We’re a team that, all year long, as soon as we break the seal, the floodgates tend to open,” Blumhagen said. “We knew we just needed to get on the scoreboard. It was frustrating that we couldn’t do it until it was a little too late.”
Moorhead seized control in the early goings, as a pair of runs in the second afforded the Blues a 2-0 head start. Bemidji could have escaped the one-out jam and left the bases loaded, but the infield couldn’t turn a 6-4-3 double play, and then an error on the next batter allowed the second run to score.
The difference doubled in the fourth, when Wyatt Tweet’s RBI double and Jacob Hendrickson’s RBI single came in back-to-back fashion on two outs.
All the while, Blues starter Quentin Hegg stumped the Centaurs at the plate. Although Bemidji’s leadoff batter reached in four straight innings in the middle of the game, Hegg maintained command with five scoreless innings of five-hit ball.
Hendrickson’s two-out RBI single in the sixth inning ultimately delivered the winning run.
Frustration set in on the Centaurs, evidenced by kicked dirt, a spiked helmet or two and a stagnant zero on the scoreboard.
“Our kids did everything they could do,” Blumhagen said. “I can’t sit here and go back and say I’d like (our guys) to do anything different. … We knew Moorhead was going to come and swing it.”
The final frame was as dramatic as they come, with Lundeen reaching second base and itching to sprint home for a 5-5 tie. But a strikeout ended the drama and left Bemidji with runner-up medals that hardly felt satisfying.
Yet Blumhagen highlighted the team’s success in metro tournaments and a finish atop the conference standings, insisting that Sunday’s game is no measure of this summer’s success.
“Coming where we come from in high school baseball, all there is is the state tournament. There are so many more goals along the way for Legion baseball,” Blumhagen said. “These guys put together a 26-6 record, which is one of the best summer records over the last 50 years in this town.
“… Our success this summer wasn’t determined on the field today. It was determined long ago. And these guys have done enough.”
Moorhead 5, Bemidji 4
MHD 020 201 0 -- 5-11-0
BEM 000 000 4 -- 4-8-1
WP: Hegg (5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K)
LP: Lundeen (5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 K)