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Legion baseball: Facing top teams gives Alexandria a good workout

The Fat Daddy's Alexandria American Legion Post 87 baseball team wrapped up its regular season by going 1-2 against some of the top teams in the state at the Princeton Tournament this past weekend.

Alexandria faced last year's Legion World Series champion in Eden Prairie and the 2011 runner-up in Lino Lakes. Post 87 held leads in both those games but fell 8-5 to Eden Prairie and 5-4 to Lino Lakes after beating Princeton 15-0 in between.

Alexandria saw its rally come up just short in the top of the seventh against Lino Lakes. Post 87 cut their deficit to one on an RBI-ground out off the bat of Grant Becker. Zach Peterson just missed a pitch with the tying run in scoring position in the next at-bat as he flew out to center field to end the game.

"We had a few chances there at the end to get the big hit," head coach Kevin Engebretson said. "Just couldn't quite come through with it. It was great to see our guys battle the early adversity and fight their way back into the game all the way to the end."

Alexandria chipped away after falling into an early 4-1 deficit. Starting pitcher AJ Anderson lasted just 1/3 of an inning after allowing three runs in the first on a hit, four walks and a hit batter.

Blake Stockert came on in relief and gave Post 87 a chance to get back in the game. He went the final 5 2/3 innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits and a walk. He struck out four.

"Blake did a fantastic job of keeping us in it and giving us a chance to fight and come back," Engebretson said.

His defense helped him out throughout the game. Post 87 turned three double plays and committed just one error.

Alexandria had just three hits in the game. Two of those came from Beau Backhaus, while Christian Anderson roped a two-RBI single down the left field line in the fourth that made it a 4-3 game at the time.

It was a different story against Princeton as Alexandria broke out for 17 hits in the 15-0 win over the host team. Jeff Swedberg and Ben Kluver both had three hits as they combined for six RBIs and two runs scored. Ten different players had at least one hit for Post 87 as they scored 12 runs over the final three innings to blow the game open.

That was plenty of offense for Nick Knoblach. He went the first five innings, allowing just one hit. He walked four and struck out three before Logan Serum worked two scoreless innings to close things out.

"Our guys were clicking on all cylinders and for a while there late in the game, it looked like nobody was going to get out," Engebretson said. "At one point in the last inning, we had 10 guys in a row reach base. Lots of line drives all over the place, and it makes things pretty easy when that is going on at the plate. Pitching and defense were also terrific, and it was an all-around great team effort."

Alexandria had to watch one slip away against the defending state champions in the opening round of the tournament. Post 87 led 5-2 after the second inning before Eden Prairie rallied with six runs over its final four at-bats.

Pat Leary got the tying hit in the second for Alexandria as he plated Gideon Burnham and Beau Backhaus to make it a 2-2 game. Knoblach had an RBI groundout after a Christian Anderson single. Post 87 then executed a delayed double steal and used a Peterson RBI-single to give themselves a three-run lead.

The offense went quiet after that. Alexandria brought just one more than the minimum to the plate after the second inning, allowing Eden Prairie to claw its way back into the lead.

Backhaus started on the hill for Alexandria and took the loss after working five innings. He allowed seven runs, five earned, on eight hits and three walks. Stockert worked the final two innings, allowing an unearned run on two hits and three walks. He struck out two.

"We had a chance to take one away from a very good team, so that was fun," Engebretson said. "But it was frustrating for our guys to see it slip away like it did. Again, just a few little things here and there defensively would have got us a win, a double play with the bases loaded, communication on a couple of cutoff plays. Our guys are disappointed as they should be because as a competitor, you always expect to win no matter who you play, but we did hang right with them until the end."


ALEXANDRIA 100 200 1 - 4 3 1

LINO LAKES 301 001 X - 5 8 1

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - AJ Anderson - L, 1/3IP, 1H, 3R, 3ER, 4BB, 1HB, 0SO; Stockert - 5 2/3IP, 7H, 2R, 2ER, 1BB, 4SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Burnham - 1 run; Knoblach - 1 run; Backhaus - 2-2, BB, RBI, 1 run; Leary - BB; Becker - RBI; C. Anderson - 1-2, 1 run, 2 RBI; Peterson - BB

ALEXANDRIA 210 023 7 - 15 17 1

PRINCETON 000 000 0 - 0 4 5

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Knoblach - W, 5IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 4BB, 3SO; Serum - 2IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB, 0SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - AJ Anderson - 2-4, 2B, 1 run, 2 RBI; Serum - 2-4, BB, 1 run; Burnham - 1-4, 2 runs, RBI; Erich Murphy - 1 run; Knoblach - BB; Backhaus - 1-1, RBI, 1 run; Becker - 1-4, 2 runs; Swedberg - 3-4, BB, 1 run, 2 RBI; C. Anderson - 2 runs; Stockert - 1-2, 1 run, RBI; Peterson - 1-3, 2B, BB, 2 runs; Kluver - 3-4, 2B, BB, 1 run, 4 RBI; Kris Setterstrom - 2-5, 2 RBI

EDEN PRAIRIE 200 230 1 - 8 10 2

ALEXANDRIA 050 000 0 - 5 9 2

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Backhaus - L, 5IP, 8H, 7R, 5ER, 3BB, 0SO; Stockert - 2IP, 2H, 1R, 0ER, 3BB, 2SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Serum - 1 run; Burnham - 2-3, 1 run; Knoblach - RBI; Backhaus - 1-3; Leary - 1-3, 2 RBI; Becker - 2-4, 1 run; C. Anderson - 1-3, 1 run; Peterson - 2-3, 2B, RBI; Setterstrom - 1 run