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Beetles baseball: Alexandria tries to overcome early pitching woes

Sunday's 12-11 win over the St. Cloud Sox epitomized the type of games that the Alexandria Beetles have had to try to win so far this summer.

The Beetles scored their 12 runs on 10 hits. They took a 12-6 lead into the ninth inning before having to sweat out a one-run win as 2011 all-star closer Anthony Bazzani came on to pick up the final two outs to earn the save. It's a Beetles' offense that has averaged more than six runs a night through their first 25 games.

Where Alexandria has struggled has been from the mound. The Beetles entered Monday with a Northwoods League worst 189 runs allowed and a team ERA of 6.54. That has made wins difficult to come by as Alexandria found itself 9-16 after the win on Sunday and 9.5 games back of first-place Mankato in the North.

Injuries and being short on arms because of the College World Series has played a role in that. Nick Berhel (USC) and Andrew Busby (Mississippi State) both suffered minor injuries this summer and Brandon Johnson isn't in town yet after helping Florida State University make a deep run into the College World Series.

The good news is those arms should be at the Beetles' disposal pretty soon. Berhel and Busby were both expected back this week after throwing without any problems last weekend. Johnson will also be in Alexandria to start the second half after posting a 2.87 ERA in 16 appearances for the Seminoles this past season.

"He'll be in our starting rotation," Beetles' head coach Drew Saberhagen said. "A left-handed pitcher, 87-88 with some big breaking stuff. He could be a difference maker."

The Beetles have just been trying to find the right spots for guys through the first month of the season. Mitchel Babb (Meridian Community College) relieved starter Shawn Riesgraf (St. Cloud State) to start the sixth inning against St. Cloud and threw three scoreless innings before running into trouble in the ninth.

Babb gave up a three-run home run to Andy Henkemeyer. A hit batter and a walk followed before Saberhagen reluctantly brought in Bazzani to get the final two outs.

"I think Mitchel Babb was outstanding today," Saberhagen said. "He ran into a little bit of trouble in the ninth, but that's probably as high as his pitch count has been all year. I just didn't want to use Bazzani. We're a little thin right now. We're getting two pitchers back (Berhel and Busby), hopefully this week, so our bullpen will be back."

Bazzani threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings in an 8-7 loss to Mankato the night before. He gave up a two-run double to The Rox' Chris Paul but got Jamie Simpson to strike out swinging for the final out on Sunday.

The offense was able to pick up the Beetles' pitching staff with three four-run innings against St. Cloud. The top of the order set the tone as Tanner Vavra (Valparaiso), Dylan Raper (Oklahoma) and Ben Moore (Alabama) combined for six hits, eight RBIs and four runs scored.

"You look up and we're scoring six to 12 runs a game and putting up 10-15 hits a game," Saberhagen said. "You got to be pretty happy with the offense. Especially in our park, with the left-handed bats we run up there, we're one swing away all the time."

The Beetles will try to ride that offense until they can get their pitching staff a little more in order. Alexandria finished fourth in the first half last season with a 16-14 record before going 28-11 in the second half.

The Beetles believe they can follow that same approach this season. The key is getting healthy and getting the arms into town that can help boost a struggling rotation.

"It will smooth itself out," Vavra said. "We still have a couple of kids coming in from the World Series so I think we're really going to turn things around in the second half. I think we're going to be a tough team to play."


ROCHESTER 000 201 003 6-6-3

ALEXANDRIA 100 000 020 3-5-0

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Scott Sanderson 5-2-3-3-3-3; Mitchell Babb (L) 3-1-2-2-3-3-; Anthony Bazzani 1-3-1-1-0-1.

ALEXANDRIA HITTING - Will Fulmer 1-4, 1 run; Johnny Tolson 1 run; Ben Moore 1 run, 1 bb; Ryan Padilla 1 bb; David Garcia 2-3, 1 rbi, 1 bb; Josh Carpenter 1-4, 1 rbi; Dylan Raper 1-3, 1 bb.

ROCHESTER 221 000 400 9-11-4

ALEXANDRIA 002 020 000 4-8-1

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Jon Reed (L) 6.1-11-9-8-2-8; Caleb DeLee 1.2-0-0-0-0-0; Alex Guilford 1-0-0-0-1-0.

ALEXANDRIA HITTING - Tanner Vavra 2-5, 2 runs, 1 rbi; Dylan Raper 2-4, 1 run, 1 bb; Ryan Padilla 1-4, 1 rbi; Ben Moore 1 bb; Sean O'Hare 1-4; Josh Guerra 1-4, 1 run; Josh Carpenter 1-4.

MANKATO 000 012 000 3-5-2

ALEXANDRIA 140 150 10X 12-13-2

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Ali Simpson (W) 5-3-1-1-4-6; Babb 3-2-2-1-3-4; Rene Martinez 1-0-0-0-2-1.

ALEXANDRIA HITTING - Vavra 3-6, 3 runs, 3 rbi; Raper 1-2, 2 runs, 2 rbi, 2 bb; Tolson 1-4, 1 rbi, 1 bb; Padilla 2-4, 1 rbi, 1 bb; Moore 1-4, 1 run; Pickens 1-4, 2 runs, 1 bb; O'Hare 2-5, 1 run, 2 rbi; Garcia 1-4, 2 runs; Guerra 1-4, 1 run, 2 rbi, 1 bb.

MANKATO 001 310 030 8-8-2

ALEXANDRIA 000 005 002 7-11-2

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Michael Reed 5-6-5-5-2-4; Guilford (L) 2.2-2-3-0-2-2; DeLee 0-0-0-0-0-0; Bazzani 1.1-0-0-0-1-2.

ALEXANDRIA HITTING - Vavra 2-4, 1 rbi; Raper 1-5, 2 runs; Padilla 1-4, 1 run, 1 rbi; Garcia 4-5, 1 run, 4 rbi; Pickens 1-5, 1 run, 1 rbi; O'Hare 1 run, 1 bb; Musgrove 1 bb; Carpenter 2-4, 1 run.

ST. CLOUD 101 040 005 11-15-4

ALEXANDRIA 000 440 40X 12-10-5

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Riesgraf (W) 5-9-6-4-2-2; Babb 3.1-5-5-5-2-4; Bazzani (S) 0.2-1-0-0-0-1.

ALEXANDRIA HITTING - Vavra 2-4, 2 runs, 3 rbi, 1 bb; Raper 2-4, 1 run, 2 rbi, 2 bb; Moore 2-3, 1 run, 3 rbi, 1 bb; Padilla 1 rbi, 1 bb; Pickens 2-5, 1 run; Guerra 1-4, 2 runs, 1 bb; Beaty 2 runs, 2 bb; Musgrove 1-2, 2 runs, 2 bb; Carpenter 1 run, 2 rbi.

MorkenEric 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.

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.

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