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BASEBALL: Justice tallies 4 RBIs after hit to head, but Sabres blow away Jacks

A popular saying in life stipulates that many things are better than a kick in the head. But what about a thrown baseball to the head, at high velocity and close range? That’s what Bemidji High School baseball first baseman Cam Justice experienced on Friday at the BSU baseball field.

051822.S.BP.BHSBASE Cam Justice.jpg
Bemidji junior Cam Justice celebrates his home run in the fifth inning against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, May 13, 2022 at the BSU baseball field.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – A popular saying in life stipulates that many things are better than a kick in the head.

But what about a thrown baseball to the head, at high velocity and close range? That’s what Bemidji High School baseball first baseman Cam Justice experienced on Friday at the BSU baseball field.

Batting in the bottom of the first inning with Ethan Biehn on first base, Justice experienced a Sabre-rattling of sorts. As Biehn broke for second, Sartell-St. Stephen catcher Jackson Vos fired the ball to second – but it never arrived there.

It instead deflected off Justice's head and out of play. After taking a few moments to gather himself, Justice managed to shake it off and lace a two-out, two-run double to right field, giving Bemidji a 3-1 lead.

051822.S.BP.BHSBASE Cam Justice.jpg
The Lumberjacks walk back to the dugout after Cam Justice (10) hit a home run in the fifth inning against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, May 13, 2022 at the BSU baseball field.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“I got beaned,” Justice said. “I’m like, ‘Two outs. I’ve got to get a ball in play.’ And it happened. That's how you respond.”

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But the Lumberjacks as a whole struggled to contend with the day’s craziness – including powerful wind gusts – conceding 11 runs in the fourth inning of an eventful 18-6 loss to the Sabres.

“When we have a chance to take the momentum, we’ve got to take it,” BHS head coach Mike Fogleson said. “Early in the game, we were up 3-1 with awesome opportunities to grab the momentum and we didn't take it. Then we made some mistakes. They grabbed the momentum and they ran with it.”

After Justice’s heroics, BHS (9-5) left the bases loaded in the first inning and stranded four combined runners in innings two and three. Those missed opportunities were magnified when Sartell-St. Stephen (5-6) cashed in its 11-run fourth.

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Bemidji sophomore Peyton Neadeau swings at a pitch in the fifth inning against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, May 13, 2022 at the BSU baseball field.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“That's the lesson,” Fogelson said. “Baseball is a game of momentum. And they ran with it. Their confidence went through the roof. They took advantage of the conditions. They did a great job. You’ve got to give them a ton of credit. But early in the game, we had the opportunity to do it. And we just didn't do it.”

About those conditions – the wind was consistent in its bluster from start to finish, making every fly ball and pop-up an adventure. In the Sabres’ big scoring frame, multiple balls dropped safely in the infield after appearing as easy pop flies off the bat. Other balls drifted to the warning track or over the wall as Bemidji struggled to read and adjust to their rapidly changing flight paths.

“We’ve got to make those plays,” Justice said. “We gave them a lot of runs today.”

That being said, the wind was unlike anything Justice had experienced on the diamond before.

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Bemidji junior Will Zellmann runs to third base in the third inning against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, May 13, 2022, at the BSU baseball field.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“(It was) crazy,” Justice said. “I don't think I've ever seen this much wind (while) playing baseball.”

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Justice also received some help from the wind, lining a drive to right-center field that caught the prevailing current and sailed over the wall for a two-run home run. That swing of the bat helped power a three-run BHS response in the bottom of the fourth, slimming the margin to 12-6, but Sartell-St. Stephen responded with six in the top of the fifth to put the game out of reach.

As wild and weird as the elements were on Friday, Fogelson still found plenty of teachable moments from his team’s performance.

“You’ve just got to run everything out (as a hitter),” Fogelson said. “You’ve got to assume it's going to drop. And as a defender, you've got to go get everything and assume nobody else is going to catch it. I mean, there were balls that started over the dugout foul that ended up in fair territory.”

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Bemidji junior Ty Lundeen (7) high-fives assistant coach Steve Thompson after the fourth inning against Sartell-St. Stephen on Friday, May 13, 2022 at the BSU baseball field.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

No one had a more unique day than Justice – and while he was pleased with his team-leading four RBIs, he was more disappointed that the Jacks couldn’t weather the storm as a team.

“It felt good (to bounce back personally),” Justice said. “But it just stings (that) we couldn't pull the W off.”

The Lumberjacks will have their next chance to get a win during a doubleheader against Moorhead starting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, in Moorhead.

Sartell-St. Stephen 18, Bemidji 6

SSS 100 (11)6 – 18-14-2

BHS 300 30 – 6-11-1

WP: Brinkerhoff (3.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K)

LP: Lundeen (3.2 IP, 6 H, 11 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 4 K)

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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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