Card softball: Late Storm rally costs Cards a win
The Alexandria softball team got off to a slow start last week but is confident that's all it is after falling to 0-2 in a 4-3 loss to Sauk Rapids-Rice last Thursday night.
The Cardinals watched a 3-0 lead disappear in one inning against the Storm. Taylor Ellingson was cruising through the first four innings before Sauk Rapids scored four runs with two outs in the fifth.
The Storm had nine hits in the game and six of those came in that decisive inning. Ellingson was one pitch away from getting out of a jam before Miranda Wurdelman snuck a line drive a foot inside the right-field foul line. Kendra Christiansen added a two-RBI single a couple batters later to turn the momentum in the game.
Ellingson showed her ability to get out of jams leading up to that point. She struck out four through five innings of work before giving way to Emily Kuennen in the sixth. Kuennen worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the top of the seventh to keep it a one-run game going into her team's final at-bat.
"Our pitchers feel bad about both the outcomes," head coach Randy Albers said of the first two losses. "Sometimes they just find the holes and the balls have eyes. It's unfortunate, but they've pitched well enough to keep us in games. We just need to start getting more girls in when the chance presents itself."
The Cardinals were also trying to shore up the little things that can make a difference in close games. Mikayla Lucas was thrown out at third trying to advance from first to third on an error that got away from the second baseman. Instead of two on and the tying run at second, the Cardinals had to start over in the seventh after that out ended the sixth.
"Those are the things that we keep stressing," Albers said. "The base running is kind of an underlooked thing in softball sometimes. We need to do a better job of that. It's early yet, and I think as we get going, a girl like Mikayla, she knew she made a mistake. I think she learned her lesson, and it won't happen again. She's a pretty smart gal."
Alexandria had plenty of other chances to score throughout the night. The Cardinals had 11 hits and left runners on base in every inning. Some of that had to do with the defense of Sauk Rapids. Center fielder Ashley Kutz robbed Jessica Syvrud in the sixth on what likely would have been a game-tying extra-base hit. Kutz broke to her left before making a running catch with her back to the infield.
Alexandria was able to bunch enough hits together to score three runs in the third. Syvrud, Lauren Trumm and Sarah Bruzek started the inning with three straight singles. Ellingson then followed with a two-out, two-RBI single that made it 3-0.
Seven different players got hits for the Cardinals. Trumm led the way with three singles and an RBI. Bruzek and Ellingson also finished with two hits apiece. Alexandria needs more of those to come in bunches to get things going in the right direction.
"Bunching hits together and getting two-out hits with runners on," Albers said of the biggest issues plaguing the team early on. "We're just leaving too many runners on right now. We got to avoid the big inning, too. The last two games, we've had one bad inning, and that's kind of been our downfall."
The first-year head coach believes those are things that will eventually come for this team. Alexandria has a talented young roster that finished 9-5 in the Central Lakes Conference a year ago. That's why Albers isn't too concerned with an 0-2 start to the season.
"I'm real confident," he said. "It's hard for the girls to see right now, but we're two games in. We've got a lot of games to play. Once it gets rolling, things start to pick up and things start going our way. It was a good ballgame. We had a chance to win both of these. We didn't, and we just got to keep moving forward."
SAUK RAPIDS 000 040 0 - 4
ALEXANDRIA 003 000 0 - 3
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Ellingson - L, 5IP, 4R, 4SO; Kuennen - 2IP, 0R, 0SO
ALEXANDRIA HITS - Carlson - 1; Syvrud - 1; Trumm - 3, RBI; Bruzek - 2; Ellingson - 2, 2 RBI; Amanda Christianson - 1; Mikayla Lucas - 1