Alexandria Legion baseball: Post 87 advances to state
Beau Backhaus got the ball rolling and the offense carried it from there as the Fat Daddy's Alexandria Post 87 Legion baseball team earned a trip to state after winning the District 7 tournament last weekend.
Backhaus was on the mound to start and end the tournament as he closed the door in a 10-8 win over Marshall in the championship game. That came after a 73-pitch, complete-game shutout in an opening 4-0 win over Litchfield last Wednesday. Post 87 got to the title game with an 11-10 win over Marshall in the semifinals.
Alexandria found out through two games that second-seeded Marshall had no quit in them. Post 87 led 8-0 in the title game before Marshall scored seven runs over the last five innings to make it close.
Alexandria's seniors were a little too much in the end. AJ Anderson, Gideon Burnham and Erich Murphy combined for five hits and eight of Alexandria's 10 RBIs to cement their spot in the Legion state tournament in Chaska.
"It was great to see these guys step up and get it done for us at the plate," head coach Kevin Engebretson said. "It was without a doubt a total team effort, but I am especially proud of the seniors for coming through with the big hits for us when we needed it most."
Murphy got perhaps the biggest of those hits in a 1-0 game in the second inning. Burnham led off the frame with a walk before Murphy hit a two-run shot to deep left field. That was the start of a seven-run second-inning for Alexandria. Anderson added a two-run single in the inning as he finished the day 3-for-5 with a run scored and three RBIs.
Post 87 would need all of that and the insurance runs they added in the fourth and seventh innings to hold off Marshall. They chipped away at starter Nick Knoblach by scoring four runs on him through five innings. It could have been worse, but Knoblach limited the damage after giving up 10 hits and three walks.
Backhaus took over in the sixth and worked the final four innings. He allowed four runs, two earned, on four hits. Marshall cut its deficit to two on an RBI single with two outs in the ninth. Backhaus got the next guy he faced to roll a ball to short where Zach Peterson fielded it and threw on to second for the final out.
"It definitely got interesting there at the end," Engebretson said. "But our guys made the big plays when it counted. Errors will happen, but it's fun to see guys turn the page and make the next [play]. I again have to give credit to Marshall for fighting back when they were down and never giving up."
Alexandria led 11-1 through six and a half innings in the semifinal win last Thursday. Marshall responded with four runs in the bottom of the sixth and five more in the eighth to make it close.
Knoblach shut the door through the final 1 2/3 innings to pick up the save. He relieved Logan Serum with one out in a three-run game in the eighth. Marshall scored on an RBI-ground out and an error before Knoblach retired the final four men he faced. Three of those came on strikeouts.
Anderson led the offense with two hits, including a double, and three RBIs. Knoblach added two hits, two runs scored and two RBIs, while Peterson went 2-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs.
"We definitely made things interesting there at the end," Engebretson said. "But it was great to see our guys buckle down and get it done. No panic from our guys on the mound or in the field."
There was no such drama in a 4-0 win over Litchfield in the tournament opener. Backhaus made sure of that as he faced the minimum number of batters after giving up just two hits in the game. One of those hits was erased on a stolen base attempt and the other was cut down on a double play.
Backhaus struck out six and his defense committed no errors behind him. That made single runs in four separate innings hold up. Backhaus finished the tournament allowing just six hits and two earned runs in 13 innings pitched.
"He really put trust in his defense," Engebretson said of Backhaus. "He'll be the first to say that they were terrific behind him. He always does such a nice job pitching, not throwing, by getting in the hitter's mind and picking apart their weaknesses."
Post 87 hopes to see more of that when they open up the state tournament this Friday against host Chaska. The two teams will meet for a 1 p.m. first pitch at Athletic Park. The loser of that game will play again immediately afterward, while the winner will play again at 7 p.m. that same day.
"Either way, this is a very exciting time for our guys," Engebretson said. "We look forward to the opportunity to play with the best teams from the state of Minnesota. With all of the tournaments and games we have played this summer, we feel well prepared and are pumped to get down there."
MARSHALL 001 030 013 - 8 14 1
ALEXANDRIA 170 100 10X - 10 12 2
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Knoblach - W, 5IP, 10H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 1SO; Backhaus - 4IP, 4H, 4R, 2ER, 0BB, 2SO
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - AJ Anderson - 3-5, 1 run, 3 RBI; Burnham - 1-2, BB, 1 run, 3 RBI; Murphy - 1-5, HR, 1 run, 2 RBI; Knoblach - 2-4, 2 runs, BB; Backhaus - BB; Pat Leary - 3-4, 1 run; Grant Becker - 2 BB, 2 runs, RBI; Jeff Swedberg - 1-4, 2B, 1 run; Peterson - 1-3, BB, RBI, 1 run
ALEXANDRIA 000 065 000 - 11 11 2
MARSHALL 100 004 050 - 10 11 2
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Blake Stockert - W, 6IP, 7H, 5R, 3ER, 3BB, 10SO; Serum - 1 1/3IP, 4H, 5R, 4ER, 1BB, 0SO; Knoblach - 1 2/3IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 3SO
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - AJ Anderson - 2-5, 2B, 3 RBI; Murphy - 1-5, 2B, 2 runs; Knoblach - 2-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Backhaus - 1-2, 2 BB, 1 run; Leary - 2-5, 1 run, RBI; Becker - 1-4, 2 BB, 2 runs, RBI; Swedberg - 1 run; Peterson - 2-4, 2B, 2 runs, 2 RBI
LITCHFIELD 000 000 000 - 0 2 3
ALEXANDRIA 001 101 10X - 4 8 0
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Backhaus - W, 9IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 6SO
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - AJ Anderson - 1-4, RBI; Burnham - 2-4, 2B, 2 runs; Knoblach - 1-4; Leary - 2-3, 2B, BB, RBI, 1 run; Becker - 1-4, RBI; Peterson - 1-4, 2B, 1 run; Ben Kluver - BB
Eric Morken Eric Morken started as a sports reporter for the Echo Press on July 9, 2007. He is a graduate of Augustana College in Sioux Falls where he majored in journalism and minored in history and communications. In his spare time, Morken enjoys hunting and fishing or just being in the outdoors. He is also an avid Minnesota sports fan. Follow Sports Reporter Eric Morken on Twitter at @echo_sports. Read Eric's sports blog, More with Morken at Areavoices.