BEMIDJI -- With a better approach and one swing of the bat, Isabelle Neadeau blasted the Bemidji High School softball team out of a rut on Tuesday.
“We’ve been in a funk,” Neadeau said of the team’s 1-10 start. “We do everything so well in practice, so to be able to do that in a game felt really good.”
Neadeau delivered the game-winning RBI double in a 5-4 win over Duluth East, then contributed to a 15-3 walloping in game two of a doubleheader sweep at the BHS softball field.
“I think we needed it pretty bad,” Neadeau said. “We knew it was right there. … To have this now, it feels really good. I think we can keep that going, too.”
Neadeau admitted that she’s been chasing the high heat this season, which had handcuffed her production. But Lumberjacks head coach Brad Takkunen loved the sophomore’s progress in action on Tuesday.
“She’s laying off some of those marginal pitches that she was swinging at earlier, but yet getting a good pitch and hitting it hard,” Takkunen said. “Hopefully we’re starting to get these kids to (recognize), ‘OK, this is the pitch I’m looking for.’”
Neadeau finished 3-for-3 in the first game, which included two doubles and two RBIs. She added a 2-for-3 showing in game two with another two RBIs.
“I think you particularly saw that (patient approach) with Izzy,” Takkunen said. “We’ve said all year, ‘Look for your pitch. Because when you see it, you hit it.’ And she hit it well today.”
Bemidji jumped out with the first four runs of game one, headlined by RBI singles from Elizabeth Oster and Neadeau in the third frame.
The Greyhounds (2-8) raced back, first when Kylee Zwak swatted a two-run home run in the fourth and then when Riley Stevens clubbed the tying two-RBI single in the fifth.
But a half inning later, Neadeau came up to bat at just the right time. After Hannah Alexander singled and stole second, Neadeau crushed a one-hopper to the wall for the go-ahead score.
“Offensively, I just wanted to hit the ball, really. Just put it in play,” Neadeau said of the double. “I was kind of watching it. I knew it was (late in the game), so it felt really good to be like, ‘Yeah, I did that.’”
Taylor Waukazo did the rest, mowing down the Duluth East battalion in the sixth and seventh to wrap up the complete-game win. She allowed five hits and four runs (three earned) while striking out four.
The BHS bats were far from done, as they quickly proved in game two. As the road team on the scoreboard, the Jacks plated four runs in the first, two in the second and five in the third for a gargantuan 11-1 advantage.
Eight different players scored a run for Bemidji within the opening three frames, and seven batters had at least one hit. Leadoff hitter Jody Pemberton was 3-for-3 during the span, cracking a pair of doubles and scoring three runs as part of an eventual four-hit game.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Takkunen said of the offensive explosion. “You watch these kids in practice hit the ball all over, and then in the game, I think they get in their heads a little bit and things kind of turn a little. But you could tell they were playing very loose. Everyone played, which is probably the best thing ever. It was just a lot of fun to watch the kids continue to hit the ball hard.”
Another four runs in the fifth inning put an exclamation point on the finale and piled onto the team’s highest-scoring game of the season.
“We’ve really been busting our butt all year,” Takkunen said. “It took a little bit for us to learn what’s going on and who to put where. … I think they’re gaining more confidence, and you can see some of that.”
Courtney Bullie earned the win from the circle in game two. She tossed three innings of relief and allowed two earned runs off four hits while mixing in a pair of strikeouts.
Bemidji will next head to Willmar for a 4:30 p.m. road game on Thursday, May 13.
Bemidji 5, Duluth East 4
DE 000 220 0 -- 4-5-1
BHS 022 010 X -- 5-10-1
WP: Waukazo (CG, 7 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K)
LP: Bergman (CG, 6 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 5 K)
Bemidji 15, Duluth East 3
BHS 425 04 -- 15-14-2
DE 100 11 -- 3-6-6
WP: Bullie (3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K)
LP: Koos (CG, 5 IP, 14 H, 15 R, 11 ER, 5 BB, 1 K)