On Tuesdays and Thursdays, KBUN Sportsradio presents a “Lumberjack Throwback”, as we recall a memorable Bemidji High School game from recent years through archived highlights and interviews. Today, a look back at Bemidji softball’s first-ever trip to the State tournament and the incredible game that came in the Class AAA consolation semifinals…
Bemidji softball made history in the spring of 2018, capturing its first-ever Section title by winning 11-2 in the decisive second game of the 8AAA championship against Sartell-St. Stephen. The joy of making it to the State tournament for the first time was quickly followed by the task of making the trip an impactful one.
The task became daunting when the tournament draw revealed that the Jacks had been paired with top-ranked Faribault in the opening round on June 7, 2018. Behind 17 strikeouts and a dazzling no-hitter from highly touted pitcher McKayla Armbruster–who would win Ms. Softball the following season–the Falcons exploded for six runs in the sixth inning to shut out Bemidji 8-0 in the morning Class AAA quarterfinal at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
To keep the season alive, the Lumberjacks now faced an afternoon consolation game at Caswell Park’s Field 5 against Rocori, who had also lost earlier in the day. First pitch from Bemidji’s Maddie Hanson came just after 5pm, around six hours after the Lumberjacks had begun their game with Faribault.
The first three innings passed with little incident, though the Jacks left two on base–among them Samantha Edlund, who had picked up Bemidji’s first hit of the day across the two games–after slugger Evette Morgan grounded out to end the third.
However, the top half of the fourth inning brought the game to life. Rocori’s first two batters reached on singles before the following two were retired. But thanks to three more singles, two errors, and a passed ball, the Spartans pushed five runs across the plate. With Bemidji’s offense continuing to struggle, Rocori scratched out another run in the top half of the sixth inning to stretch the lead to 6-0.
But in the bottom half of the inning, the Lumberjacks’ offense showed its season-long ability to put up crooked numbers in a hurry.
Edlund led off at the top of the order with hers and the Jacks’ second hit and Anikka Takkunen drew a walk–followed by a throwing error from the catcher that advanced the runners to second and third–bringing Morgan back up with another opportunity. This time, she drilled a sharp ball through the shortstop to score Edlund and get Bemidji on the board.
Gracie Fisher followed up with a ground rule double, driving in Takkunen and chasing starter Caitlin Heinen from the game after she had surrendered just three hits.
Makenna Quinn struck out looking against new pitcher McKenzie Dufner, but Emma Stanoch followed with an RBI single to left field to further trim the lead, which now stood at 6-3 for Rocori.
Known for her ability to take long at-bats, Hanson worked an eight-pitch dual with Dufner into a walk, loading the bases for Savannah Bakke with just one out. The designated player would come through, squeezing out an infield single that drove in Fisher to bring Bemidji within two.
Keena Kondos went down on strikes for the second out, but the top of the order loomed on deck again and Edlund promptly bounded a single on the infield that had no play on it. The hit scored Stanoch’s courtesy runner Kenzie Christianson to continue the massive rally.
With the bases loaded and down 1-2 in the count to Dufner, Takkunen brought in Hanson’s courtesy runner Maggie Marcotte on yet another infield single to tie the game and send Bemidji’s fans into stunned delight.
On the twelfth at-bat of the inning, Morgan shot a double through to score Bakke and Edlund and propel Bemidji into an improbable 8-6 advantage.
A strikeout of Fisher on the next at-bat by new pitcher Olivia Drontle finally ended the inning, but only after the Jacks had piled up eight runs on seven hits while benefiting from two errors.
Down to its final three outs, Rocori responded back with a deep double to start the seventh. A single, a double steal that created one run, and a sacrifice bunt were all pieced together to tie the game at 8. Against Dufner–who had returned to the circle–Hanson reached on a two-out double as the winning run in the bottom half of the inning, but Bakke flew out to strand her and send the game to extras.
In the eighth, Hanson allowed just one baserunner on a walk, once again setting the stage for Bemidji to win the game in the bottom half of the inning. Kondos and Edlund flew out before Takkunen managed another walk. That brought Morgan to the plate for one of the biggest, most dramatic hits of the season.
Morgan finished 2-5 with the home run, four runs batted in, and two runs scored. Edlund went 3-5 at the plate with two runs, and Takkunen was walked twice, scored two runs, and added a single. Hanson pitched the complete game for the win, allowing eight runs–six earned–on 12 hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
The 10-8 victory was Bemidji’s 17th win of the year and continued the State tournament experience for one more day and game. After the following morning’s consolation championship game with Academy of Holy Angels was postponed to the afternoon due to heavy rain, Bemidji’s season ended with a 12-1 loss in six innings to the Stars.
The comeback victory was a fitting final triumph for Bemidji in its historic season, giving the team a memorable game from its first-ever visit to the State tournament.
COMING TUESDAY: A classic rivalry battle for a new prize.