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SOFTBALL: Bemidji fields new Legion team, opening path for high-level competition

Softball diamonds around Bemidji are a little busier than usual this summer. That’s because, for the first time, the Bemidji American Legion softball team has taken the field.

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Bemidji’s Karley LaZella throws a pitch during a game against Warren County at the Bemidji Blaze Tournament on Friday, June 24, 2022, at the BSU softball field.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- Softball diamonds around Bemidji are a little busier than usual this summer. That’s because, for the first time, the Bemidji American Legion softball team has taken the field.

“I’m really, really proud of the group that showed up, and I’m excited for them to get this opportunity to get better,” said Sylvia Grimm, the team’s head coach. “I hope it continues to bring more of the varsity kids from surrounding communities to come and play and be competitive.”

Grimm said she didn’t have adequate chances to play high-level softball in the summertime while she was growing up. But the 2015 Bemidji High School graduate is thankful that the status quo has changed.

“I grew up in Bemidji Youth Softball. I didn’t have a ton of opportunities to play on really competitive teams in the summer,” Grimm said. “I’m really excited that the next generation of players gets this opportunity.”

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Bemidji’s Sylvia Grimm (21) is congratulated by teammates after a line-drive home run against Fergus Falls in a 2014 game at the BHS softball field.
Pioneer file photo

The new team consists of 13 players from Bemidji, Blackduck and Laporte. That group made the cut after tryouts in mid-June and participation with a Bemidji Blaze team -- a requirement for those wanting to play for Post 14.

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The inaugural team members are Kenley Anderson, Mariah Graves, Alex Hartman, Emilie Jessen, Karley LaZella, Kayleigh Lory, Audrey Neadeau, Izzy Neadeau, Elizabeth Oster, Kylee Reimer, Maya Schmidt, Aleah Shogren and Maureen Stroeing. The team is coached by Grimm and assistant Alex LaZella.

Grimm noted the challenge of keeping up numbers within the Bemidji Girls Fastpitch Softball Association. But she hopes that more competitive avenues in the summer will draw in players long-term.

“Softball in town has been a little bit less than we’d like it to be,” Grimm said. “So this is a good opportunity to grow it and give the high school girls a chance to be more competitive in the summer than they’ve gotten to be in the past.

“I’m so excited to be a part of this. I’m really, really proud of the girls who have showed up, and I want to put the work in. It’s an honor to be with this group of kids.”

They’ve got a light schedule this year -- which began on Thursday, June 30, with a doubleheader against Rock Ridge in Cohasset. Bemidji lost 13-2 and 7-3.

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Bemidji sophomore Aleah Shogren pitches the third strike in the fourth inning against Rocori on Saturday, May 14, 2022, at the BHS softball field.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji will next host Grand Rapids at 5:15 p.m. on July 14 at the BHS softball field, and then the district playoffs begin on June 21. Success on the field is important, but so is finding a groove within the dugout.

“Right now, (our goal) is cohesiveness from spring ball to summer ball and team unity,” Grimm said. “We only practice once a week with this group, otherwise they’re with their other teams. We’re trying to find a way to come together as a unit and maybe win a couple games. It would be really, really fun to go to state. Right now, we’re just one doubleheader at a time.”

But perhaps just as important is the matter of finding a nickname. While Grimm quipped that it’s not easy for teenage girls to come to a consensus on something, she’s excited to see what kind of identity rises.

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“The girls have just been goofing off with it. I’m letting them take the reins,” she said. “It’s something fun that they get to do and something they can be a part of. … My dad (Jim Grimm) was part of the group that picked the Centaurs (for the Legion baseball team). I want these girls to have some pride in what they achieve.”

Related Topics: SOFTBALL
Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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