SOFTBALL: Spoiler alert: Jacks avoid upset, recover for blowout win in playoff opener
BEMIDJI -- Gabbi Takkunen pitched under amplified pressure for the Bemidji High School softball team on Tuesday, especially after Little Falls surprised with a three-run first inning in the Section 8-3A Tournament opener.
But Takkunen kept a short memory in the circle.
“Obviously there was a little pressure because they’ve scored and we haven’t at that point, but I trust our team’s abilities,” she said. “Even though we did make a couple errors, it’s not going to define how we play the rest of the game.”
The second-seeded Lumberjacks had an immediate answer with four runs in the bottom of the first, which provided the spark for an eventual 12-4 win at the BHS softball field.
“Gabbi was a leader. That (is a) senior mentality,” Bemidji head coach Brad Takkunen said. “Fortunately we were able to come out and get four runs. It helps settle the kids down. Bottom line is that she was throwing strikes. We needed to support her.”
The scare-turned-blowout wasn’t the cleanest of victories in Tuesday’s wildly windy conditions, but the Jacks still found a way to use that style of game to its advantage.
“Even though it was an ugly win, it just proves where we are as a team,” Gabbi Takkunen said. “We can battle back and win. It shows the talent that everyone has on this team.”
The seventh-seeded Flyers (2-19) scored on a bloop single, a line drive up the middle and a throwing error in the first inning. But Gracie Fisher put BHS (13-7) on the board with a two-run single in the home first, and she later scored behind Evette Morgan for a 4-3 advantage through one.
Little Falls manufactured the tying run in the fourth off Carly Kapphahn’s double to the gap, but then Bemidji ran away from the upset-minded Flyers.
The first six batters of the fourth scored for the Jacks during a seven-run outbreak. Emma Stanoch plated two on a base hit, and Maggie Marcotte added an RBI single of her own to make Little Falls pay for four errors in the frame.
“It definitely gives us a boost of confidence,” Gabbi Takkunen said of the fourth inning. “It shows the skills that we have and what we can do when we actually get going. It was nice because we were actually able to prove ourselves and build up that confidence.”
The senior pitcher also quieted the Flyers from the rubber. She only allowed the one run after the first inning, also managing to escape a bases-loaded threat in the sixth. She retired the side in order in every other frame.
Savannah Bakke scored in the sixth inning to make for the 12-4 victory, which will be remembered as a choppy, take-it-or-leave-it kind of game for BHS.
“An ugly win is a win, right?” coach Takkunen said. “You’ve got to be careful not to blast them, but on the other hand there are some things we can fix. It’s an interesting situation. But the bottom line is, at this time of the year, you want to come out with that W.”
Gabbi Takkunen finished her complete game by allowing four runs (two earned) on seven hits, walking none and striking out four.
“In the first inning, there were certainly a couple balls that should’ve been outs that weren’t,” coach Takkunen said. “For Gabbi to bounce back from that was a nice feather in her cap. We were able to just keep going with that.”
Bemidji will next host No. 3 seed Detroit Lakes at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the BHS softball field. The Lakers defeated No. 6 seed Fergus Falls 15-0 in four innings on Tuesday.
No. 2 Bemidji 12, No. 7 Little Falls 4
LF 300 100 0 -- 4-7-7
BHS 400 701 X -- 12-8-3
WP: G. Takkunen (CG, 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K)
LP: Steinmetz (CG, 6 IP, 8 H, 12 R, 9 ER, 10 BB, 5 K)