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Alex softball: Late errors prove costly in 8-3A quarterfinals

Softball team will try to battle back in loser's bracket

By Eric Morken

Defensive errors helped give the Alexandria softball team a late lead on Wednesday night and then took it away again in a 9-7 loss to Big Lake in the Section 8-3A quarterfinals at Woodland Elementary school.

Big Lake committed two errors in the bottom of the sixth after Emily Kuennen singled sharply to lead off the frame. That hit to the outfield skipped under the center fielder's legs as Kuennen wound up at third on a two-bag error. Three batters later, she scored on a misplayed grounder near first to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead heading to the seventh.

Alexandria was two outs away from securing that lead before three straight errors helped Big Lake score three runs in the inning. The Hornets' Ana Doran delivered the biggest hit of the frame as her soft liner found grass between shortstop and left field. That drove in two and proved to be the game-winning hit as Kelli Poffenberger struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh.

"Softball is an up and down game all the time," Alexandria third baseman Sarah Bruzek said. "It's definitely a mind game. All of us just wanted it so bad. I think we were thinking of making the play before it happened. You've got to field the ball first before you can throw it, and everyone was thinking of throwing it and what to do with it next. That happens."

Bruzek and Jess Syvrud delivered the two biggest hits of the game to help Alexandria battle back after falling behind 3-0 in the first inning. Poffenberger struck out seven of the first nine batters she faced, but Alexandria started to square up the ball in the fourth inning. Syvrud brought her team all the way back as she crushed a pitch to left-center field for a three-run home run.

Big Lake answered with two more runs in the fifth before it was Bruzek's turn to deliver at the plate with the bases loaded. She crushed a 0-2 pitch to the right-center field gap that cleared the bases and gave her team its first lead of the night at 6-5. That didn't quite hold up as the Hornets answered with a solo home run in the sixth before pushing the three unearned runs across in the seventh. Taylor Ellingson took the loss for the Cardinals after going the distance from the circle.

Alexandria still has a chance to battle its way back through the losers' bracket. The Cardinals will take on Sauk Rapids-Rice on Monday at noon back at Woodland Elementary. Alexandria split with the Storm during the regular season, losing 3-2 before taking a 9-6 game in the nightcap of a doubleheader on May 9.

"They'll rebound," head coach Randy Albers said. "These girls are pretty resilient. We've got a lot of senior leadership, and this was a very good game. I tip my hat to Big Lake. They put the ball in play. They have some girls who hit the ball, and they got the pitching at the right times. It was a really fun game."

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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