Baseball: VFW 15s 1-2 at state tournamentAlexandria opened with a win over New Ulm, but dropped the next two games
The Alexandria 15s VFW baseball team won its state tournament opener last Thursday before two straight losses dropped them from the field and ended a memorable summer for the youngest team from District 5.
The 15s played like they have all season, never saying die until the final out. They found themselves down 3-0 after the first inning against Austin last Friday before chipping away and coming up just short in an 8-7 game.
That knocked them from the tournament after a 10-0 loss in five innings against Worthington on Thursday dropped them to the losers’ bracket. Alexandria’s lone win came against a New Ulm team that played its way into the semifinals with three straight wins after its 9-4 loss to the 15s in the opening round.
“We were going down there with the mindset that every win from here was a bonus,” head coach Jake Munsch said. “The kids had nothing to lose all year and this team was in the same position going into this tournament.”
Alexandria had a lot of exciting moments this summer, but its season came to an end on a heartbreaker. The 15s fought all the way back after falling behind 5-1 early against Austin. A four-run fifth tied things up for a short time. All of those runs came with two outs as Grant Becker started the rally with a double before Zach Carlson, Ben Allen, Chris Anderson and Jeff Swedberg all followed with singles.
Austin answered right back, though. They scored twice in the bottom of the inning to take a 7-5 lead. It was once again Alexandria’s turn to answer as the 15s got one in the sixth and the tying run in the top of the seventh on an RBI double by Swedberg with two outs. That drove in Zach Carlson, who led off the inning with a triple.
“Whenever we’re down, we’re never nervous,” Munsch said. “We were down throughout the whole district tournament. Getting down early doesn’t bother us.”
Unfortunately for Alexandria, the excitement of tying the game with two outs didn’t last long. Austin answered right back with back-to-back doubles to send them on as walk-off winners.
Even in the loss, it was a game that showed their ability to bounce back after losing to Worthington 10-0 in the second game on Thursday. Worthington left-hander Lucas Henning was dominant against the 15s’ lineup, scattering seven hits and striking out seven in the five-inning shutout.
“He had about 41 innings pitched and 77 strikeouts,” Munsch said. “He’s a pretty good ball player. Had an ERA under one.”
The seven hits came from three players for Alexandria. Ben Allen went 3-for-3, while Patrick Leary and Nick Knoblach each went 2-for-2. All seven hits were singles.
It was a different story in the tournament opener. Alexandria faced an always tough New Ulm team and jumped all over them with a big sixth inning.
The 15s sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six times in the sixth to break open a close game. Craig Campbell started the outburst with a one-out double before he was tripled home by Knoblach. Allen, Anderson and Swedberg all singled before the inning was over as Alexandria built what turned out to be an insurmountable lead.
“For them to go in there and beat New Ulm, which is usually a powerhouse, is a pretty good accomplishment,” Munsch said.
It was the latest in what was a long list of accomplishments for this team. The 15s end the summer with a 25-11 record and a regular season and district title to their name.
“I think the season in general is pretty self explanatory,” Munsch said. “A bunch of 15-year-old kids went out and won their district tournament and won a game at state. They exceeded the expectations of a lot of people and will continue to exceed the expectations of a lot of people. Chris [Koep] and I as coaches, we couldn’t have been happier with the kids.”
Austin 8, Alexandria 7
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Ben Allen – 4+IP, 4H, 7R, 0ER, 1BB, 4SO; Beau Backhaus – 2+IP, 1H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 1SO; Nick Knoblach – 0IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 0SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Allen – 1-4, 1 run, RBI; Chris Anderson – 1-4, 1 run, RBI; Jeff Swedberg – 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Knoblach – 2-3, 2B, 2 runs; Matt Pilgrim – 1-2; Gabe Grimstad – RBI; Grant Becker – 1-3, 2B, 1 run; Zach Carlson – 2-3, 3B, 2 runs, RBI
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Beau Backhaus – 1IP, 1H, 3R, 2ER, 2BB, 1SO; Pilgrim – 4IP, 8H, 7R, HBP, 0BB, 4SO
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Allen – 3-3; Leary – 2-2; Knoblach – 2-2
Alexandria 9, New Ulm 4
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING – Knoblach – 7IP, 8H, 4R, 2BB, 1HB
ALEXANDRIA HITTING – Allen – 2-4, 1 run, RBI; Anderson – 2-2, BB, 2 runs, RBI; Swedberg – 1-4; Leary – 1-4, 2B, 1 run; Craig Campbell – 1-1, 2B, 1 run; Knoblach – 1-3, 3B, 2 runs, RBI; Backhaus – 1-2; Elliot Jacobson – 1 run; Pilgrim – 1-3, 1 run