Willmar stymies Legion in finals - againAlexandria saw a 9-0 lead disappear as Willmar topped the Legion in the finals for the fourth straight year.
It was a final chapter that the Garden Center/Fat Daddy’s Alexandria American Legion baseball team would love to rewrite.
Alexandria was well on its way to its first of what needed to be two wins over Willmar to capture the District 7 championship on Sunday. They jumped out early to a 9-0 lead on Sunday before a 12-run inning changed the momentum entirely and catapulted Willmar to a 13-10 win and berth in the state tournament.
Alexandria lost twice to Willmar during the tournament, falling 11-5 in the second round. That loss was sandwiched between a 13-7 win over Marshall in the opener and a 16-5 victory over Litchfield to advance to the championship round.
Alexandria was in complete control of this one for five innings.
Starting pitcher Shawn Krueger was cruising through the Willmar lineup before things came unraveled in the sixth. His offense scored twice in the second, three times in the third and fifth innings and once in the fourth to place all the momentum in Alexandria’s favor. That momentum shifted after a sixth inning that coach Kevin Engebretson had a hard time putting into words.
“It was surreal,” he said. “I have never seen anything like it. Shawn was cruising and pitching great. We were hammering the baseball and just like that, everything was completely backwards.
“A bloop hit here, an infield hit there, an error, a gapper, another bloop hit – it’s hard to explain without having been there to see it. Either way, it was very strange and very frustrating for all of us. Definitely not the way we wanted to end our summer.”
Jordan Smith singled in the tying run for Willmar to complete the rally. Alec Saunders then delivered the shocking blow later in the inning with a three-run home run to left-center field to make it 12-9.
The Alexandria players did not hang their heads and were able to put up a run in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to two. Willmar got that run back in the top of the ninth. They then closed things out with a scoreless bottom of the ninth to advance to the state tournament.
“It’s hard for us when the same group of guys come so close so many times,” Engebretson said. “We saw it last summer. We saw it during hockey. We saw it this spring and now again this summer. At a certain point, I think enough is enough.
“The nice thing is, we are going to get over the hump soon because we’ve got way too good of kids not to. I have ultimate respect and care for this group of young men. They are all awesome role models for the little guys in Alexandria, and I am extremely proud to coach each and every one of them.”
Producing runs was not a problem for Alexandria all weekend.
They totaled 51 hits through the tournament. Sixteen of those came in an easy win over Litchfield in their second game on Saturday. The top four hitters in the Alexandria lineup produced 12 hits and nine RBIs in the game.
Ross Thompson went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI. Zac Beireis had three hits, four runs and two RBIs, while Colin Erickson had two hits and four RBIs. Dalton Leuschke also had a big day with two RBIs.
All of that offense gave Krueger an opportunity to rest. He started the game but went just one inning, which allowed him to pitch the first game on Sunday. Alexandria built a 7-0 lead through the first inning and a half. They added runs in every inning after that to take the game in seven innings.
John Mohror got the win in six innings of relief work. He allowed five runs, two earned, on six hits and three walks. He struck out three.
Willmar 11, Alexandria 5
In the first game of the weekend between these two teams, it was Willmar that jumped out to an early lead.
They made it 6-0 with a four-run second inning to take the momentum. Alexandria cut that lead to 6-3 after five innings, but Willmar had an answer, scoring twice in the sixth and the eighth and once again in the ninth to secure the win.
Erickson started on the hill and took the loss in seven innings of work for Alexandria. He scattered six hits, while allowing eight runs, six of which were earned. He walked seven and struck out seven.
He tried to help himself out at the plate with two hits. Mark Whiting had a big game with a home run as a part of a two-hit day. He also scored twice. Parker Giroux, Thompson and Leuschke each picked up an RBI.
Alexandria hit the ball all over the park in its opening win over Marshall last Friday.
Of the 16 hits they had, six of those were doubles and one a triple. That led to four big innings that allowed Alexandria to blow the game open.
Thompson had one of those doubles to go along with a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored. Luc Beireis led the team out of the eight spot in the lineup. He collected three hits, including a double, to go with three RBIs and two runs scored. Whiting joined him with three hits, while Zac Beireis and Giroux both had two hits.
That made for an easy day for starter Nate Nelson. Nelson earned the win in eight innings of work. He allowed six runs, three earned on nine hits and three walks. He struck out four.
It was a good way to start a tournament that would eventually end in heartbreak. It was the fourth straight year that Willmar has ended Alexandria’s season in the district finals. They wrapped up the summer with a 14-19 record overall, playing a tough schedule that they believe will improve the group of returning players come next spring.
“I think our guys grew a lot as a team this summer,” Engebretson said. ‘It’s obviously not the way we wanted things to end up, but sometimes, that’s just how baseball works. All summer long, we played hard, and we battled for each other. I am very proud of our guys for that. The only thing left to do is keep our heads up and go back at it in the spring.”
WILLMAR 000 0012 001 – 13 13 5
ALEXANDRIA 023 130 100 – 10 12 2
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Shawn Krueger – 5 1/3IP, 10H, 10R, 5ER, 2BB, 3SO; Karl Brezina – 3 2/3IP, 3H, 3R, 3ER, 0BB, 5SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Zac Beireis – 2-6, 1 run, RBI; Ross Thompson – 2-5, 2 2B, RBI; Dalton Leuschke – 1-5, BB; Colin Erickson – 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 run, 2BB; Brezina – 1-5, 2B, 1 run, RBI; Parker Giroux – 1-4, 2 run, BB; Luc Beireis – 1-4, 1 run; Lucas Betterman – 2 runs, RBI; Mark Whiting – 1-3, 2 runs, RBI
ALEXANDRIA 252 311 2 – 16 16 3
LITCHFIELD 030 001 1 – 5 6 8
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Krueger – 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 1SO; John Mohror – (W) 6IP, 6H, 5R, 2ER, 3BB, 3SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Z. Beireis – 3-6, 2B, 4 runs, 2 RBI; Thompson – 4-5, 3 runs, RBI, BB; Leuschke – 3-5, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 run, BB; C. Erickson – 2-5, 4 RBI, BB; Brezina – 1-6, 1 run; Giroux – BB, 1 run; L. Beireis – 1-5, 2B, 1 run, RBI; Betterman – BB, 2 runs
WILLMAR 240 002 021 – 11 9 3
ALEXANDRIA 002 010 002 – 5 7 3
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – C. Erickson – (L) 6IP, 6H, 8R, 6ER, 7BB, 7SO; Brezina – 1IP, 1H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 1SO; Giroux – 2IP, 2H, 2R, 1ER, 0BB, 2SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Z. Beireis – BB, 2 runs; Thompson – 1-4, 2B, RBI, BB; Leuschke – 1-4, 1 run, RBI; C. Erickson – 2-5; Giroux – 1-3, RBI, BB; Whiting – 2-3, HR, 2 runs, RBI
MARSHALL 010 004 011 – 7 11 2
ALEXANDRIA 330 340 00X – 13 16 2
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Nate Nelson – (W) 8IP, 9H, 6R, 3ER, 3BB, 4SO; Giroux – 1IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 1SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Z. Beireis – 2-4, 2B, 2 runs, RBI, 2 BB; Thompson – 2-5, 2B, 3B, 2 runs, 2 RBI, BB; Leuschke – 1-6; C. Erickson – 1-6, 1 run; Brezina – 1-2, 3 runs, 3 BB; Giroux – 2-4, 2B, 2 runs, RBI, BB; L. Beireis – 3-4, 2B, 2 runs, 4 RBI, BB; Betterman – 1-4, RBI; Whiting – 3-5, 2 2B, 1 run, RBI