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Morris VFW wins first round at State Tournament

The District 5 Champion Morris VFW team is participating in the State Tournament in St. Cloud.

The Morris VFW Post 5039 opened state tournament action with a thrilling 2-1 extra-inning win over Bemidji Thursday at Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud.

With the win, Morris advances to take on Austin in a winner's bracket game Friday at 4 p.m. in the double elimination tournament.

Eric Riley got the start for Morris and pitched a gem, allowing just five hits, walking two, and striking out seven in going the distance. The run he gave up was unearned. Riley is now 7-3 on the season as Post 5039 improves its record to 18-4.

The game was scoreless through the top of the fourth as Morris played good defense behind Riley. Morris turned two double plays, including one in the second inning. After the lead-off hitter singled, Ethan Bruer went far to his left to field a ground ball then turned and threw a perfect strike to shortstop Alex Erickson who relayed the ball to first in time for the second out.

The Bemidji pitcher, Zach Solheim, was just as effective, allowing only singles to Ryan Beyer, Brady Valnes, and Cole Riley in the early going.

Morris took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning when E. Riley led off with a long ground rule double to center field, which got caught up in the ivy on the wall. A Valnes ground out moved E. Riley to third and a C. Riley ground out drove him home with the first run of the game.

Bemidji tied the game in the top of the fifth when Solheim led off with a double. E. Riley then made an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt to put runners on the corners with no outs. A short fly ball to center fielder Tyler Hansen held the runner on third, but he came around to score when Bemidji's Mitch Hendrichs grounded out to second.

The score remained tied as the game went into extra innings. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Erickson led off with a double down the right field line. After a Hansen walk, Beyer hit a short fly ball to right field that the second baseman caught going away from the infield, allowing Erickson to tag up and get to third base. E. Riley was intentionally walked to load the bases and then Valnes lofted a short fly ball to right field. The Bemidji right fielder, Cole Bardwell, made a strong throw home but Erickson avoided the tag at the plate, lunging to just sneak his hand in before the tag to end the game.