Alex softball: First inning dooms Cards in opener
The Alexandria softball team got off to a rough start that the Cardinals couldn't recover from in a 6-4 loss to Willmar in the season opener on Thursday night.
Willmar scored four runs in the first inning with the help of just one hit that left the infield. The Cardinals helped them out with a handful of miscues as Willmar forced the issue by playing small ball to put the ball in play.
"They started off right away with a bunt and got a hit, walk, another bunt and we kind of threw the ball around a bit," head coach Randy Albers said. "We kind of put ourselves in a tough position to get down 4-0 right away. That's the way it goes. They did a good job of putting the ball in play and kind of caught us off our toes a little bit and put four runs across."
The Cardinals tried to chip away from there. They got one back in the bottom of the second when Carly Dropik tripled and later came around to score on a sacrifice bunt.
It was a 5-1 deficit heading to the bottom of the fifth when Alexandria came within one run. McKenzie Revering got things started with a double and was brought around on a single from Taylor Ellingson with two outs. Then it was Dropik's turn again as the junior delivered another triple, this time plating two to make it a 5-4 game.
Alexandria got the tying run as close as third base in the sixth after junior Courtney Bitzan got a one-out single and worked her way to third with two outs. That's as far as she would get after a fly ball to the infield was played for the final out of the inning. Willmar added one more in the top of the seventh before the Cardinals went quietly in the bottom of the frame.
It wasn't the way the Cardinals wanted the season to start on their home field, but Albers emphasized that it's a long season. He said he believes this team has the talent to be a conference contender when it's all said and done.
"It's a learning process for them, and I think we played really tight today," Albers said. "I think we put more pressure on ourselves. There was a nice crowd out here today, and they wanted to start off and perform well. We added a little bit of pressure to ourselves that I don't think we'll do down the road."