Backed by 12 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings from starter Dan Clusiau, Bemidji baseball used a single run in the third inning to edge Brainerd 1-0 in an important Section 8AAAA game on Tuesday at the BSU Ballpark.
Seeking a section victory to add to its resume ahead of Friday’s coaches vote to determine playoff seeding in 8AAAA, the Lumberjacks got an early indication of Clusiau’s dominance with a strikeout that left a Warrior runner stranded at third to end the first inning.
Clusiau capped the second inning in similar fashion to the first, recording yet another strikeout with the game remaining scoreless.
Bemidji’s scoreless opening two frames extended a prolonged streak of innings without a run scored to 15 dating back to its 5-3 win against Moorhead last Tuesday. The streak was finally ended in the third inning thanks to Will Zellman’s RBI single that brought home Hunter Brodina.
The Lumberjacks could not add to the lead despite putting runners on first and third in both the third and fourth innings when runners were caught stealing second base in an attempt to pull off a double steal with two outs. They had reached that scenario in the fourth when Parker Mistic dropped a fly ball single into shallow right field.
Brainerd swiftly put itself in position to respond in the top of the fifth inning, loading the bases with nobody out. Clusiau responded with consecutive strikeouts and a groundball to Peyton Neadeau at second led to a putout at first to end the inning.
Cam Justice hammered a double deep to right field in the bottom half of the inning, but the Lumberjacks again could not increase the advantage.
Clusiau appeared set to exit the game after issuing a leadoff walk to begin the sixth inning, but continued on after a meeting at the mound. The Warriors used a sacrifice bunt to move their runner to second, and then Clusiau finished his pitch maximum with a strikeout for the second out.
Ethan Biehn took over in relief and immediately drew a groundout that trickled down the line to first base and the waiting glove of Justice.
Biehn completed the save in the top of the seventh inning, getting help from a sharp play by Neadeau at shortstop for the final out.
Clusiau totalled 12 strikeouts against four walks while surrendering a mere three hits over the duration of his start–the only three hits managed by Brainerd during the afternoon.
Bemidji (11-7) will concluded the regular season on the road at Eastview in a rematch of the 2012 Class AAA state championship. The game will be at 3pm on Thursday.