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BASEBALL: Special players, team concept led 1982 Bemidji State on World Series run

When the 1982 Bemidji State baseball team qualified for the NAIA World Series in Lubbock, Texas, the Beavers made history. And that historic achievement probably still hasn't been equaled.

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Bob Montebello, who was the head coach of the 1982 Bemidji State baseball team, proudly stands near the signs that advertise its advancement to the NAIA World Series. The team will officially be inducted into the BSU Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday. BSU Photo Services
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When the 1982 Bemidji State baseball team qualified for the NAIA World Series in Lubbock, Texas, the Beavers made history. And that historic achievement probably still hasn't been equaled.

"Every other team at the World Series had at least 30 full-ride scholarship players," said Jim Grimm who was an assistant coach of the team along with pitching coach Pete Maus. "We made it to the World Series without any player receiving any scholarship money and I would bet that we still are the only team to play in the World Series without a scholarship player."

The success of the 1982 BSU baseball team continues to be among the crown jewels in the history of Bemidji State athletics. The players, coaches, trainers and everyone else who contributed to the success will be honored Friday and Saturday as the 1982 BSU baseball team is inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.

"We were a homogeneous group of guys who executed very well, did the little things needed to win and had fun," said Bob Montebello, who was the team's head coach.

"That team is one of the phenomenons of sports," Montebello continued. "Who knows what makes a team jell. I was amazed with some of the things that team was able to accomplish. In the important games that made a difference, that team always found a way to win."

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The 1982 Beavers compiled a 23-20 overall record and won the Northern Intercollegiate Conference with a 14-6 record.

"Heading into the last weekend of conference play we needed to win one of the four games at Winona," Grimm recalled. "And we did that in the first game."

That weekend in Winona was made possible by a sweep of Morris earlier in the spring. The fact that BSU took four games from the Cougars wasn't surprising. How they did it, though, was telling.

"We were behind by at least five runs in the bottom of the seventh but we came back to win all four games," Grimm said. "Our philosophy was to look at each game as 21 outs. And we played hard for those 21 outs."

The reward for the conference championship was a trip to St. Paul to take on St. Thomas in a best-of-three series for the district title. The Tommies were heavy favorites but when the Beavers scored 10 runs in the top of the first inning of the opener, the series was over.

"John Noga hit a grand slam in the first inning and the Tommies didn't know what hit them," Grimm said. "And they never showed up for the second game."

The region tournament began in Des Moines, Iowa, but was switched to St. Joseph, Mo., early in the event because of constant rain.

The Beavers continued to win and Doug Shequen's pitching performance in the championship game against Milton College of Wisconsin capped BSU's run to the title.

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The magical ride ended at the World Series, where the Beavers were beaten by Chicago Loyola and Lewis University of Montana.

"This team put northern Minnesota and Bemidji State on the map," Montebello said.

The pitching staff included Noga, Eric Gager, Gene Kaml, Frank Lamb, Tim Milliard, Mark Sheppard, Shequen and Tracey Wensloff.

John Kennedy was the catcher and his brother Rick Kennedy split time at first base with Noga.

Dave Wicker and Al Desrosier handled second base, Charlie Warring was the shortstop and Paul Jenkins manned the hot corner.

The outfield consisted of Ed Nordskog in left, Lance Chambers in center and Greg Hadley in right.

Wensloff and Kent Severson were the primary pinch hitters and Scott Bartholomew was the designated runner.

"This was a special group of kids who pulled together," Montebello said. "They had spirit and they had gumption. And they all performed the way a coach can appreciate."

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"The team's main strength was that it was an ego-less team," Grimm said. 'We all had the approach that no matter the situation, each player would do what needed to be done.

"Our philosophy was get a guy on base, move him over and drive him in. And if that required our clean-up batter to hit behind the runner, he did it," Grimm added. "And everybody embraced that team philosophy completely."

This weekend the players and coaches who orchestrated that memorable season will be forever recognized as members of the BSU Athletic Hall of Fame.

"We were a bunch of small-town kids who came together and played baseball," Grimm said. "And we had fun doing that."

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