BEMIDJI -- Momentum started to swing in favor of the Bemidji High School baseball team when Alex LaZella clubbed a three-run home run on Monday.
The high-flying blast put the Lumberjacks ahead of Brainerd 3-2 in the fourth inning. But the Warriors came right back in the fifth, regaining the lead for good in a 6-4 road win at the BSU baseball field.
“With two strikes, they were hard to get out. With two strikes, we were going down swinging,” BHS head coach Mike Fogelson said. “… Hats off to them. Hopefully we learn something today that, down the road, will help us.”
Fogelson said his post-game message to the team was that lessons at this stage in the season are crucial for postseason success.
“Winning is fun, but learning is more important right now,” he said. “Obviously, we want to win the game, but more importantly, we want to learn some things. If we learn a better approach because of what we saw today, we’re going to be better off for it. We want to have the right approach in the playoffs.”
LaZella’s homer erased an early 2-0 deficit for Bemidji (7-6). The Warriors scored a pair in the third on an RBI triple from Broc Peterson, who later came in on a groundout.
“Alex has been real consistent for us,” Fogelson said. “That was a big at-bat to swing the momentum back in our favor. It was a huge hit for him. It’s one of those moments that’s huge for our team.”
Nevertheless, Brainerd immediately responded to the Jacks’ first lead of the day. Seth Vagts knocked BHS starter Steven Peterson from the game with a two-run double to shallow right, and Michael Laber later smacked an RBI single for a 5-3 lead.
Cole Tatro launched a towering homer over the wall in left field to open the sixth, bringing Bemidji within 5-4.
From then on, BHS put two runners on base with nobody out in each of the final two frames. But the ensuing Lumberjack batters went down in order to diffuse the threats. The Warriors added an insurance run in the seventh to ensure the 6-4 win.
“We’re going to get it coached up because it’s on us to get it coached up,” Fogelson said of the approaches at the plate. “… We have to have the approach they have: With two strikes, we’re not going down. We’re fouling pitches off, we’re battling, we’re finding a way. They just did a really good job, and we need to emulate that.”
Peterson got tabbed with the loss on the bump, going 4 1/3 innings and giving up five runs on eight hits while striking out five. Offensively, Isaiah Biehn and Tatro recorded multi-hit days, but eight strikeouts piled up on the Jacks.
BHS will return to the BSU baseball field for a doubleheader on Friday, May 17. Bemidji will play Grand Rapids at 2:30 p.m. and Duluth East at 7:30 p.m.
Brainerd 6, Bemidji 4
BRA 002 030 1 -- 6-10-1
BEM 000 301 0 -- 4-8-1
WP: Martin (6+ IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 8 K)
LP: Peterson (4.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 6 K)