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HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Defending section champs beat Brainerd in opener

With seven starters returning from their Section 8-3A championship team of a year ago, the Bemidji Lumberjacks are early favorites to repeat.

Their talent level was apparent in Thursday’s opener at Adamson Field as they cracked 13 hits on their way to a 13-4 win over the Brainerd Warriors.

Bemidji second baseman Cody Jenkins drilled the game’s big hit, a 3-run homer to left in the second. First baseman Mason Bellew enjoyed a big day, with an RBI single in the sixth and a 3-run double in the seventh. Designated hitter Nick Conner finished 3 for 4.

“You would hope with a veteran team you would come out and play well right at the start of the year, have not as many nerves because you’ve been here before,” Bemidji coach Mike Fogelson said.

The Lumberjacks received solid pitching from left-hander Ryan Hirt and reliever Mitch Hendricks as they combined to allow just four hits. Hirt, a sophomore lefty with a herky jerky motion, did walk six and give up four earned runs, but he struck out four and allowed three hits. Hendricks pitched two scoreless innings.

“He needs to throw more strikes, he knows that,” Fogelson said of Hirt. “He’s a young kid. He was probably nervous, too. When he throws more strikes he will be real effective.”

Brainerd sophomore right-hander Drew Sannes made his varsity debut, striking out three. He walked just one and allowed three earned runs in three innings. He did give up six hits, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch. He was followed to the mound by Blake Peterson, Blake Thiesse, and Luke Boran, the latter struck out the only Lumberjack he faced.

“I didn’t think our pitchers were as bad as the final score,” Warriors coach Lowell Scearcy said. “I thought Drew did a good job. We just didn’t catch some balls, some balls went through.

“Blake Peterson came in and gave us three pretty good innings, then the same thing happened to Blake Thiesse in the last inning, a couple balls we don’t catch, then the flood gates open on you. Against a good team you have to get them out when you have the chance.”

At the plate, Brainerd second baseman Riley Kline smacked a 2-run single in the first. Warriors first baseman Mitch McLain added a 2-run double that missed clearing the fence by inches.

Two Brainerd errors in the first led to four unearned Lumberjacks runs, with Connor McNallen delivering a 2-run single in the uprising.

Jenkins’ home run accounted for the three Bemidji runs in the second. Leading 8-5 in the seventh the Lumberjacks tacked on five runs, with Bellew’s bases-clearing double the big hit.

“They’re a pretty polished and a good team,” Scearcy said. “We knew that coming out of the blocks. They’re a veteran team. They’re going to win a lot of baseball games.

“We have a lot of room for improvement. I would suspect a month from now we’re going to be a much better team than we are right now.

“We’re still looking a little bit at different positions defensively. We could see a couple places today that maybe we need to look at somebody else, but it will get better.”

Bemidji 430 001 5 — 13 13 1

Brainerd 220 000 0 — 4 4 3

Bem: Ryan Hirt, Mitch Hendricks (6) and Collin Leif.

Brd: Drew Sannes, Blake Peterson (4), Blake Thiesse (7), Luke Boran (7) and Ben Stall.

WP: Hirt. LP: Sannes (0-1).

2B: Mitch McLain (Brd), Nick Conner (Bem) 2, Cody Rutledge (Bem), Mason Bellew (Bem)

HR: Cody Jenkins (Bem)

SB: Hendricks, Nick Hovila (Bem).

LOB: Bem 9, Brd 7

RBIs: Rutledge, Jenkins 3, Bellew 4, Hovila, Connor McNallen (Bem) 2, Riley Kline (Brd) 2, McLain 2,

MIKE BIALKA may be reached at or at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at