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Beetles closer Anthony Bazzani got the final two outs of the ninth inning in a 10-7 win over Willmar on Monday. The right-hander from Eastern Kentucky has allowed just one run in his last 15 appearances. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

Beetles baseball: Alexandria needs some help after loss

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The Alexandria Beetles went from being in control of their own destiny to needing a lot of help in a matter of one game on Tuesday night.

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Alexandria put itself in position to grab a first-place tie with Willmar after winning the first of two games against the Stingers on Monday. A night later, those hopes of a second-half title took a big hit with a 5-3 loss to Willmar that dropped the Beetles into third place, two games behind Willmar and a half game back of St. Cloud.

"The boys are upset," head coach Drew Saberhagen said on Wednesday morning. "They're hurt a little bit, but they're ready to get back out there and play these last five games."

The Beetles put up double-digit runs for the 14th time this summer in Monday's 10-7 win. A night later, they looked well on their way to that again after a three-run shot by Robert Case gave Alexandria a 3-0 lead through a half inning.

The Beetles' offense went cold after that. Three Willmar pitchers combined to allow just three hits for Alexandria through the final eight innings. Tanner Banks settled down after the first frame and got the win after going 5 2/3 innings.

He worked his way out of some jams after allowing four walks before leaving with a 4-3 lead in the sixth. Andrew Wheeler and Brady Anderson made sure that held up by combining to strike out seven and allow just two hits in the final 3 1/3 innings.

"If you would have told me we'd score three in the first, I would have bet anything you wanted to bet that we would put up six or seven runs," Saberhagen said. "Tip your hat to Willmar. We had our opportunities with the bases loaded, a couple guys on; we just couldn't get that two-out hit. They did a good job of keeping us off balance."

The Beetles also found themselves without some key pieces at an inopportune time. Injuries to regulars like Jimmy Pickens, Stephen McGee and Matt Beaty left some big holes to fill in the lineup. The pitching staff has also taken a hit with Steve Weber reaching his innings limit and Michael Reed having to head back to LSU early.

"The list goes on," Saberhagen said. "It's weird that it all happened here at once. We're down to 21 healthy bodies. It's been a string of injuries. The guys who are here want to play every day, but it's tough."

The Beetles were left hoping that what they had left was enough to create some magic heading down the stretch. Alexandria will play its last home game of the regular season tonight, Friday, in the final game of a three-game series against Rochester. The Beetles will wrap up the season with two games in Duluth on Saturday and Sunday.

The hope is that they still have something to play for when they take the trip up north.

"I think the guys have the right mindset," Saberhagen said. "They want to go out and play hard and see what happens...if we're eliminated [Thursday], they'll play the last three games as hard as they can. I'm proud of the way the guys have played the last two, three weeks. It could have gotten really ugly on us again after the all-star break, but they turned it around, and we still have a chance to compete for a playoff spot."

GAME STATISTICS

ALEXANDRIA 300 000 000 - 3 5 4

WILLMAR 013 000 10XM - 5 6 2

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Shawn Riesgraf - L, 3IP, 4H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 3SO; Corey Fitzgerald - 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 4SO; Brandon Johnson - 2IP, 1H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 2SO; Alex Guilford - 1IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 0SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Matt Lowenstein - 0-4, BB; Tanner Vavra - 1-5, 1 run; Ben Moore - 0-4, BB, 1 run; Ryan Padilla - 0-4, BB; Robert Case - 1-4, HR, BB, 1 run, 3 RBI; John Loeffler - 1-4; Dallas Hannah - 1-4; Blake Borrow - 0-3; Josh Carpenter - 1-3, BB

WILLMAR 200 030 002 - 7 8 3

ALEXANDRIA 202 140 10X - 10 14 2

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Scott Sanderson - W, 5IP, 6H, 5R, 4ER, 6BB, 4SO; Caleb DeLee - 3 1/3IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 4SO; Anthony Bazzani - 2/3IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 0SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Lowenstein - 3-4, 2B, 2 runs, RBI; Vavra - 3-5, 3B, 2 runs, 4 RBI; Moore - 2-3, HR, HBP, BB, 1 run, 3 RBI; Padilla - 0-2, BB; Case - 1-2; Mike Morman - 0-5; Loeffler - 1-4, BB, 1 run; Hannah - 2-5, 2B, 2 runs; Barrow - 0-3, BB; Carpenter - 2-3, BB, 2 runs, RBI

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Eric Morken
Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.
(320) 763-1229
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