HIGHLIGHTS: Electric Clusiau Strikes Out 14, Jacks Strike Late For Opening-Round Win

#1 Bemidji shook off a pair of solo home runs from #9 Brainerd in the first inning to flip the game in the fifth and back a strikeout showcase from Dan Clusiau for a 7-2 win in the first round of the Section 8AAAA baseball playoffs on Wednesday in front of a packed crowd at the BSU Ballpark.

The visiting Warriors were continuing a day that had started with the final three innings of a 5-0 play-in win over #8 Buffalo that had started on the road the day prior and finished in Brainerd on Wednesday. With their season extended by at least two more games, Brainerd struck on the very first at bat with a blast over the center field wall from Isaac Hanson.

After Clusiau recorded a pair of outs, Wyatt Gabrielson turned on an inside pitch to clear the giant wall in left field for his second home run in as many games–staking the Warriors to a sudden 2-0 advantage.

Despite a pair of quick outs to begin the bottom of the first, the Jacks worked a walk and single off Brainerd starter Sawyer Hennessey to fashion a threat. Ethan Biehn made it count by drilling a double off the left field wall that scored one run, but Ty Lundeen was thrown out as he tried to tie the game.

Clusiau recovered from the two home runs in the first to permit just three baserunners the rest of the game–two on singles and one via an error. After striking out 12 batters in the Jacks’ 1-0 against Brainerd at home last season, he quickly fired his fourth in just the second inning.

The senior southpaw continued to deal out a pair of strikeouts in each of the third and fourth innings, keeping Brainerd off balance by mixing his curveball with a fiery fastball.

Bemidji continued to produce baserunners, but could only do so primarily in two-out situations during the early innings. Another golden chance went begging in the fourth inning when Landon Hanson was tagged out attempting to score from first on a sharp line drive from Peyton Neadeau that was misplayed in right field.

The Jacks finally broke through when Hennessey was lifted going into the fifth inning. Two walks and a single loaded the bases for Biehn to smack an RBI single that tied the game.

Ben Corradi followed up with a run-scoring walk to give Bemidji its first lead of the afternoon.

The lead grew to 4-2 with help from a hop off the glove of new Brained pitcher Eli Hoelz when Hanson hit a chopper on the infield that turned into an RBI single.

An RBI groundout by Ryan Loewe was the final blow in the four-run inning, one that would ultimately change the tide of the game for good.

Back on the mound with a 5-2 lead to preserve, Clusiau saved his best for the final six outs. He mowed down Brainerd’s minimum trio of batters in the sixth with three swinging strikeouts to take his tally to 11.

The Lumberjacks’ bid to add more to the lead in the sixth inning started in perfect fashion thanks to Will Zellmann. The senior crushed a deep drive beyond the left-center field power alley for his second home run of the season–a solo shot that put Bemidji up 6-2.

Corradi lined a two-out RBI single to center field later in the inning to give Clusiau extra cushion for his return to the mound.

After striking out the side the inning prior, Clusiau remarkably matched the feat to record strikeouts on the final six batters he faced–closing out a complete game that featured 14 strikeouts against no walks.

Biehn and Corradi each knocked in a pair of runs, while Lundeen went 3-for-3 with two runs scored.

Bemidji (16-5) stays in the winner’s bracket for a quarterfinal game against #5 Rogers–a 9-3 winner on the road against #4 Moorhead after a lengthy weather delay. The Lumberjacks will host the Royals on Thursday at 5pm at the BSU Ballpark. Pregame is scheduled for 4:45 on The BUN Sportsradio 104.5 and Lumberjacks1 at kbunsportsradio.com.