PERHAM -- The Bemidji Junior Legion baseball team is state bound.
The Woodpeckers made a perfect run through the Sub-State F Tournament, which they finished off with a 3-2 championship victory over top-seeded Perham on Tuesday in Perham.
“Going into the year, I think we definitely had some high expectations for this group. They’ve already met or exceeded all of them,” head coach Hunter Lake said. “They’ve played really well all year long, and that’s culminated in what they were able to do down in Perham these last three games. They’ve won some really tough, one-run ballgames against some other really good teams.”
Bemidji ran through the tournament undefeated, which included three straight one-run victories.
“That shows a lot of mental toughness, competitiveness on their part, being able to win those close ballgames,” Lake said. “Being able to rise to the occasion, win and close out a one-run ballgame against a really good ball club like Perham (is special).”
The victory started on the mound, where Casey St. John hurled a complete game and allowed just two runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out five.
Perham scored the opening run in the top of the first, but the Woodpeckers answered back with two in the bottom of the first. Cael Knutson doubled in Hunter Brodina, and then Will Zellman’s sacrifice fly scored Ty Lundeen.
Perham leveled the score at 2-2 by the fourth inning on a sac fly of its own, but the Woodpeckers found the eventual winning run by the fifth. Brodina led off with a single and later came in on Cam Justice’s sac fly.
The victory didn’t come easy, as Perham loaded the bases in the seventh and had the go-ahead run on second base. But St. John escaped the jam by inducing a groundout to short, which ushered in the celebration.
“That was a really special moment,” Lake said. “Thinking about everything we’ve been working toward all year, (assistant coach Bazil Zuehlke) and I were both really happy for the kids. It was a really cool thing to experience.”
The Junior Legion state tournament is scheduled to run from July 29-Aug. 1 in Bloomington. Bemidji’s first game, against a to-be-determined opponent, will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 29.
Bemidji 3, Perham 2
PER 100 100 0 -- 2-4-1
BEM 200 010 X -- 3-9-1
WP: St. John (CG, 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K)
LP: Kovash (CG, 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K)