#3 Bemidji softball emerged from a four-team Section 8AAA elimination bracket game day with victories of 11-0 over #5 Little Falls and 12-2 against #4 Sauk Rapids-Rice on Tuesday at the Bemidji High School Fieldhouse to advance into the elimination final on Thursday.
#3 Bemidji 11-0 #5 Little Falls (F/5)
Five first-inning runs sent Bemidji on its way to a comfortable five-inning victory against the Flyers in an elimination bracket quarterfinal game.
Pitcher Taylor Waukazo worked a relatively quiet top of the first to set the stage for the Lumberjacks to get rolling at the plate. Elizabeth Oster struck the first blow by going the opposite way on a single to score two runs.
Izzy Neadeau followed up on the next at bat by finding the gap in right center field for a two-run triple.
After building the 5-0 lead in the first, the Lumberjacks got rolling again in the third when Beth Bolte squeezed a run across on an infield single.
The third inning ultimately provided four runs for Bemidji, capped by a two-run single by Hannah Alexander to increase the lead to 9-0.
In the circle, Waukazo had a no-hit bid broken up in the fourth inning, but still struck out the side to finish the first game with just the one hit allowed and nine strikeouts.
Courtney Bullie worked a 1-2-3 top of the fifth in relief to set the stage for a game-ending, two-run home run that was powered to left field by Lexi Tatro.
#3 Bemidji 12-2 #4 Sauk Rapids-Rice (F/6)
The Lumberjacks booked their ticket to Thursday’s elimination final after holding off a determined early effort from the Storm with 11 runs over the final three innings of the day’s second game for both teams.
Sauk Rapids had taken care of #6 Detroit Lakes with a 10-0 victory on the high school’s adjacent field earlier in the afternoon and kept the good momentum rolling by holding the Lumberjacks to just one run in the game’s first three innings. That came by way of an RBI knock by Peyton Oelrich in the bottom of the second to put Bemidji ahead.
The Storm missed on chances with runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings before breaking through with two outs in the fourth on a game-tying RBI by Lilli Berger.
Bemidji answered back with an important three-run bottom half of the inning that was punctuated when Jody Pemberton shot a single to left field that plated the last two runs and built a 4-1 lead.
Sauk Rapids picked up another run in the top of the fifth, but with the heat starting to wear down both teams in their second games of the day, the Lumberjacks had the closing flurry. Izzy Neadeau picked up an RBI hit to get Bemidji rolling again in the bottom of the fifth.
Another run put Bemidji up 6-2 heading into the sixth, where the Lumberjacks piled on all the runs needed for an early conclusion. Tatro drove in two more runs before Macey Gish stepped in to add an RBI of her own as the lead swelled to 10-2.
Oelrich drove in a run in each of her four plate appearances in the second game of the day and had the distinction of scoring the game-ending run herself when she raced home on a wild pitch to put Bemidji ahead by ten.
Bemidji’s two victories will send the third seed into another meeting with #2 Alexandria, which lost 10-5 to #1 Sartell-St. Stephen on Tuesday in the Section 8AAA winner’s bracket final. The Lumberjacks and Cardinals will square off at 2pm on Thursday in Sartell, with the winner advancing to the championship round against the Sabres in need of two wins to claim the section title. Pregame will be at 1:45 on KBUN-FM 104.5 and KBUN1 at kbunsportsradio.com.