Alexandria baseball: Cardinals in the running for CLC title
Putting together an eight-game schedule over four days might have been grueling, but the Cardinal baseball team emerged with a 5-3 record and the potential to win its first Central Lakes Conference title since 2002 after splitting a doubleheader Friday with Moorhead and splitting another two-game outing with St. Cloud Tech Saturday.
Alexandria had just three games remaining on its regular schedule as of Monday, and if the Cards are able to collect wins in all three, they would claim the CLC title and should earn a top-four seed and a home playoff game.
The first of those games was scheduled for last night, Tuesday, when they traveled to Brainerd. They will take on Fergus Falls at home tomorrow, Thursday, in a doubleheader that begins at 4 p.m.
Alexandria 2-10, Moorhead 6-6
The Cardinals had to face Moorhead for a doubleheader Friday on the road, dropping the opening game 6-2 as Ben Allen had a pair of hits and Mitch Thompson, Christian Anderson and Jeff Swedberg each had one.
Parker Bowden went the distance on the mound, giving up eight hits and five earned runs.
"Parker gave up a couple of pop fly home runs to the short left field porch at Moorhead's home field on a night when the wind was howling out to left in game one," said head coach Russ Hinrichs.
The second game saw Alexandria jump to a 5-0 lead after the first inning as they loaded the bases. Singles by Zach Peterson and Toby Helgeson drove in runs, along with an RBI fielder's choice by Anderson.
Moorhead rallied back in the fourth with six runs for the lead before sophomore Dan Kuhn, who was making his varsity debut on the mound in relief, pitched the Cards out of a bases-loaded jam to end the rally.
"After a long week, the Cards were running out of pitching options, so we went to Saturday's scheduled starter, Jake Booth, in the bottom of the sixth," said Hinrichs. "Jake did a great job getting the game back under control.
"In the top of the sixth, Mitch Thompson reached on a walk and then Ben Allen delivered a two-out triple to the gap to score Thompson and tie the game."
Booth did his job in the seventh, holding off the Moorhead batters and forcing the game to extra innings where the Cardinals rallied for four runs and a 10-6 lead.
Booth earned the win on the mound as he went three innings, allowing just one hit.
The Cards had to take the field again on Saturday, facing conference foe St. Cloud Tech, a team that had just rallied to defeat Moorhead earlier in the day.
"The Cards again scored early, putting up six runs in the bottom of the first and never looking back, winning 11-1 in just five innings," said the coach. "Toby Helgeson led the way with two hits and four runs driven in."
Blake Stockert improved to 4-0 on the season, throwing the complete game and allowing just five hits.
"Blake has made four starts this year and in each of those games, we have won by the 10-run rule," said Hinrichs. "As a junior, Blake has now already accumulated seven varsity wins on the mound, and is certainly a pitcher all the opposing coaches talk about."
Game two was a complete turnaround for the Cards, falling 12-4.
"The Cards definitely showed some tired legs and were not able to stay with the Tigers," said the coach. "The Tigers have a very good hitting lineup and will be a dangerous team in the playoffs for whoever they face."
Booth took the loss on the mound for the Cardinals.
"Jake got the start on Saturday and gave us everything he had [to give]," said Hinrichs. "He came in to relieve the night before.
"The coaching staff appreciates Jake's attitude and willingness to take the ball at the end of a long week."
Alexandria had to turn to three pitchers who had not seen any varsity action this year to close out the game as Chris Leary, Helgeson and Cody McLaughlin saw time on the mound.
ALEXANDRIA 000 002 0 2-5-2
MOORHEAD 010 401 X 6-8-1
PITCHING - Parker Bowden (L).
HITTING - Ben Allen 2, Jeff Swedberg 1, Christian Anderson 1, Mitch Thompson 1.
ALEXANDRIA 500 001 04 10-14-3
MOORHEAD 000 600 00 6-5-2
PITCHING - Jake Booth (W).
HITTING - Zach Peterson 4, Nick Knoblach 3, Ben Allen 2, Beau Backhaus 2, Pat Leary 1, Toby Helgeson 1, Mitch Thompson 1.
SC TECH 001 00 1-5-1
ALEXANDRIA 603 2X 11-11-1
PITCHING - Blake Stockert (W).
HITTING - Pat Leary 3, Toby Helgeson 2, Zach Peterson 2, Beau Backhaus 2, Jeff Swedberg 1, Nick Knoblach 1.
ALEXANDRIA 001 120 0 4-11-5
SC TECH 004 530 X 12-12-1
PITCHING - Jake Booth (L).
HITTING - Beau Backhaus 2, Cody McLaughlin 2, Nick Knoblach 1, Ben Allen 1, Zach Peterson 1, Riley Hvezda 1, Pat Leary 1, Mitch Anderson 1, Grant Becker 1.