Legion baseball: Perham sweeps Brainerd in regular-season finale; Shifts focus towards playoffs next week
After sweeping Brainerd in a home doubleheader on Thursday night, Perham is gearing up for another postseason run in a tough-eight team tournament starting in Moorhead on Wednesday.
PERHAM – The Perham high school baseball team saw its season end a few games earlier than it had hoped.
After falling to Roseau in a heartbreaker of a Section 8-2A championship, Post 61’s summer got off to a slow start. Since then, Perham has found its rhythm again and is gearing up for another postseason push.
On Thursday night, Perham swept a potential playoff foe in a doubleheader. After cruising to a 7-2 victory in game one, Post 61 shutout Brainerd 2-0 in four innings to end the regular season.
“We haven’t been playing our best baseball,” Mulcahy said. “We had a focused practice (on Wednesday) about playing good situational baseball. You have to review it sometimes with high school kids about doing things the right way. I’m not taking anything away from Brainerd. Maybe they fell into that trap of going through the motions sometimes tonight.”
Post 61’s two runs came in the first inning. Chas Melvin stood on second base with two outs before Logan Pulju brought him home with a single. Pulju later scored on an RBI single from Blaiz Schmidt.
Perham’s clutch two-out hitting carried over from the first game. Schmidt broke the scoreless tie with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the second before Austin Aanenson made it 3-0 with a line-drive hit to right field.
“It was really good,” Mulcahy said of Perham’s ability to score with two outs. “It puts some confidence in them for Wednesday in the first round of playoffs. I think it showed the guys that we can take the things we focused on in practice and put them into the game. It was specific batting practice like getting the ball to the right side with a guy on third base and advancing runners. That reinforced what we were doing in practice.”
Schmidt threw four scoreless innings in a weather-shortened game two after Melvin and Austin Schmelz kept Brainerd’s potent offense at bay. Perham’s three pitchers allowed a combined four earned runs on seven hits with 12 total strikeouts.
“They got first-pitch strikes, which is really important,” Mulcahy said. “For the most part, they got ahead in the count. When they didn’t, Brainerd made us pay with a walk or a base hit. Our pitchers lived in the zone, and I think they threw pretty well.”
Perham got insurance runs in its last three innings at the plate in game one. Ben Shumansky went 2-for-4 with a double before adding a triple in the next game.
Brainerd committed three errors in the first game and one in the second. Even though Perham also committed four errors in 11 innings, they proved to be less costly on the scoreboard.
“We played solid defense today,” Mulcahy said. “(Pulju) made a couple of really nice plays, which changed what could’ve been a big inning. He was cutting across that hole to make really nice plays and throws across the diamond. Stuff like that feeds into the next. Now you’re having good at-bats because you’re excited about what happened previously.”
Perham ended the regular season with an 11-12 record, including a 2-2 record against Moorhead and Brainerd, who play at the Class 4A level in high school.
“This is what we want to do. We want to play the big schools,” Mulcahy said. “There’s a reason we play Division I. Games like this against bigger towns become a little bit more normal. When you’re a small school going up against a big school, and you only do it once and a while, you tend to get intimidated. When it just becomes part of what you do, it all works out in the long run.”
Next Wednesday, Perham heads to Moorhead for the first round of the playoffs. Post 61 is one of eight teams competing in a double-elimination bracket, where the winner advances to the state tournament. Alexandria, Brainerd, Fergus Falls, East Grand Forks, Moorhead, Bemidji and Detroit Lakes are all eyeing deep postseason runs in a balanced field.
“Top to bottom, anybody can beat anybody next week,” Mulcahy said. “I think a couple of those teams above us, player by player, have us by a little bit. On any given day, we can compete and make a run.”
It took a few weeks to get over that painful 3-2 loss to Roseau in the section championship. Now, Mulcahy hopes his group stays rejuvenated and focused against seven good teams.
“They’re having fun, which wasn’t the case a couple of weeks ago,” Mulcahy said. “We’ve been having fun this whole week. I hope this little bit of break helps, and they bring that fire back next week. They know the high school season didn’t end the way we wanted it to. Let’s see how far we can go here.”