Junior legion baseball: Alex Black returns to form to split with Bemidji
With an eight-run frame against Bemidji on Wednesday, the Alexandria Black junior legion baseball team threw a birthday bash for Kade Blankenship.
“It’s a great time. You feel like you’re so much better,” Blankenship said of playing on his 17th birthday. “You feel like your team is happy for you. … As long as you’re keeping your eye on the ball and you’re making the plays, it’s going to be a great day.”
Alex scored eight runs in the third inning of the doubleheader’s game two at Knute Nelson Ballpark, fueling a 9-7 comeback win to counteract a 5-3 loss in game one.
“You’re bound to have an off night or an off game, and that’s exactly what happened,” Alexandria head coach Lee Backhaus said. “I was happy to see we bounced back that second game.”
In game one, Alex Black used a three-run fifth inning to take a 3-1 lead. Riley Simonson, Wyatt Snitker and Cody Richardson pounded out back-to-back-to-back RBI hits to give Alex the advantage.
But Bemidji tied things on a Brandon Lussier two-RBI single a half inning later. And in the seventh, Ried Colley sent a sharp two-RBI single down the third-base line, continuing the turnaround for a 5-3 Bemidji lead. Alexandria couldn’t recover in time, marking the 5-3 loss.
“This team has trouble staying focused and being intense from the first pitch to the last out,” said Backhaus. “In that first game, we kind of sat around. We were very tentative, we didn’t have some good, aggressive at bats, and of course we made some errors.”
In game two, it quickly looked like things might get even worse for Alex.
Bemidji plated four runs in the top of the first off six hits. The final blow, a two-run single for Aaron Heger, put Alexandria in a 4-0 deficit.
Shortly after, though, Alex Black made it disappear with an unrelenting eight-run rally.
“We all started to find the ball, started to keep riding it and putting it in play,” said Blankenship. “We just found a lot more in game two. Usually we come around after a few innings.”
Andrew Revering drew a walk to start, and then Blankenship followed with the first hit of the frame before he scored on a Snitker single. Dominic Schmidt also plated a run with a single, and the onslaught continued when Matthew Zick and Josh Ballou each plated runs.
The fireworks came out in Revering’s second at bat of the inning, when he lofted a deep fly ball to center for a three-run home run and an 8-4 game. In a span of seven batters, six picked up an RBI to flip around the difference on Bemidji.
“If we ever get one of those home runs, it’s going to just explode,” said Backhaus. “Well, Revering gets the home run, and … hitting’s contagious. Everybody else just gets rolling.”
“You see Rev hit that home run at the end of the inning. And then as soon as he hits that blast, you get another single up the middle,” added Blankenship, who went 2-for-2 in the inning. “It just continues. Everybody else, they’re hitting. Everybody thinks they can hit.”
Kade Loge tacked on another insurance run with an RBI single in the fifth, though Bemidji still krept closer in return.
Alex committed three errors in the top of the sixth, opening the door for a comeback. Freddie Petrowske made them pay with a pinch-hit, two-RBI single that blooped its way into shallow right, turning the finale into a 9-7 contest.
But Isaac McCoy buckled down from the mound and worked a scoreless seventh, clinching the 9-7 final and a birthday split for Blankenship.
“If we focus, we’re always going to compete,” Blankenship said. “So as long as we’re focused in the dugout and we’re on the field making the plays, I think we’ll be ready (for the playoffs).”
After a meeting with the Alexandria Red junior legion team at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 13, at Knute Nelson, Alex Black will keep comfortable in its home dugout for the district tournament that starts Monday, July 16, in Alexandria.
“I think we’re ready. I probably wouldn’t have said that after the first game,” Backhaus said. “I think they’re really going to take it to the Reds, and we’ll be ready. We’ll peak at playoffs.”
BEMIDJI 000 102 2 - 5 11 1
ALEXANDRIA 000 030 0 - 3 6 2
BEMIDJI 400 003 0 - 7 11 1
ALEXANDRIA 008 010 X - 9 10 4