BEMIDJI -- With a roster full of newcomers, the Bemidji High School softball team is still looking to find its legs three games into the 2021 season.
The Lumberjacks dropped a doubleheader to Alexandria at the BHS softball field on Thursday, falling 10-0 in five innings and 9-6 in the nightcap.
“They’re learning to compete at a varsity level,” head coach Brad Takkunen said. “You can just see that when things get into a situation that would be a little bit tight, it seems like it’s a little bit above them right now. And they’re playing like that.
“But the hope, of course, is that as we’re put in this situation more and more and they get to trust their instincts and their abilities, we’ll be able to overcome that and start having confidence.”
The Cardinals (4-0) opened game one by scoring two runs on a misplayed infield pop-up in the first inning.
Walks began to pile up in the third inning when Alexandria added four runs, two of which scored on bases-loaded walks.
The Jacks (0-3) answered by loading the bases in back-to-back innings in the third and fourth, but were left with nothing to show for it.
Another four-run outburst in the fifth solidified the five-inning, 10-0 win for the Cardinals.
Taylor Waukazo started and fanned nine batters over 4+ innings, but also struggled with control at times in issuing nine walks.
Beth Bolte hit 2-for-2 to lead Bemidji at the plate in the early game.
Alexandria was the home team on the scoreboard for the finale, and again got off to a fast start by taking a 3-0 lead through the first frame.
The Lumberjacks rebounded in the next half-inning by tallying four runs to take their first lead of the day at 4-3.
Following Peyton Oelrich’s one-out double, starting pitcher Courtney Bullie helped her cause with a two-run single to get things going. The tying run crossed home plate on Aria Gish’s RBI single. Bolte drove in the go-ahead run on an RBI groundout.
“I think (Oelrich’s double) energized the team a little bit and they started to believe a little bit,” Takkunen said. “They got some runners on base, they scored some runs, and all of a sudden they started saying, ‘We can do this.’”
The Cardinals knotted it up at 4-4 on an RBI double in the third and regained a 5-4 lead an inning later on a run-scoring single.
A passed ball on Oelrich’s dropped-third strike plated two runs during a strange sequence of events. Oelrich was thrown out at first, but amid the confusion, BHS assumed a 6-5 lead.
A sac fly in the bottom of the fifth leveled the score once more, and Alex wasn’t done yet. Madi Heid plated the eventual winning run on her RBI single that pushed the score to 7-6. Brooke Stender padded the lead with a two-run single later in the fifth.
Bemidji loaded the bases in the sixth on consecutive singles, but left the runners stranded. Emily Harris retired the Jacks in order in the seventh to earn the complete-game victory.
Lexie Tatro relieved Bullie in the third inning and struck out eight over five innings with only one walk, but was saddled with the loss.
Tatro hit 2-for-4 to lead BHS offensively in the nightcap.
“The hope is that they keep making strides positively in that direction,” Takkunen said of the game-two improvement. “I think the competitiveness was there. They had just a little more ‘We’re not going to quit’ and I think that was showing up.”
The Lumberjacks will travel to Grand Rapids to meet the Thunderhawks and Hermantown in a doubleheader Saturday, April 24. Bemidji will play Hermantown at 11 a.m. and Grand Rapids at 1 p.m.
Alexandria 10, Bemidji 0 (five innings)
ALX 204 04 -- 10-7-1
BHS 000 00 -- 0-4-2
WP: Steidl (5 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 6 K, 2 BB)
LP: Waukazo (4+ IP, 10 R, 6 H, 9 K, 9 BB)
Alexandria 9, Bemidji 6
BHS 040 020 0 -- 6-9-3
ALX 301 140 X -- 9-10-2
WP: Harris (7 IP, 6 R, 9 H, 7 K, 3 BB)
LP: Tatro (5 IP, 6 R, 9 H, 8 K, 1 BB)