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Beetles baseball: Alexandria battles back to .500

The Beetles have proven all season that when their pitching can hold teams at bay, they have the offense that can win a lot of games.

That was on full display through three wins in the last four games that got the Beetles back to .500 in the second half of the season. Alexandria combined for 26 hits in back-to-back 8-6 and 7-2 wins over Duluth and Thunder Bay at the start of the week.

The Beetles had two of their top offensive threats on the bench against the Huskies in Ryan Padilla and Jimmy Pickens on Tuesday and still managed 15 hits on their way to an early 7-0 lead that they never relinquished.

"When you score eight runs with two of your more potent bats on the bench, that says something about the depth we have on this offense," head coach Drew Saberhagen said. "Guys understand the importance of getting a day off and now with 12 guys, we'll have some pretty good players to bring off the bench."

The Beetles will have an extra guy to turn to with their roster finally being completed with the addition of Florida State catcher Stephen McGee. McGee was expected to get his first start on Wednesday against Duluth.

It's an addition that Saberhagen has been excited about for a long time as he watched McGee help lead the Seminoles deep into the College World Series. Listed at 6'3" and 220 pounds, McGee is a big target behind the plate who started every game for FSU this past spring. He hit .230 in 67 games but was fifth in Division I baseball with 61 walks and an on-base percentage of .428.

"He is a guy who will add a whole other dimension to this team," Saberhagen said. "A guy who will see a lot of pitches and help out, not only our pitching staff, but our offense."

It's a lineup that is already averaging more than six runs per night. Even when Tanner Vavra, who leads the league with his .385 average, goes 0-for-4 like he did on Tuesday night, guys are there to step up behind him. Ben Moore went 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs scored and three RBIs in the win over the Huskies. Matt Beaty and Josh Guerra each added three hits as well.

"With the way we swing it, it doesn't matter if it's six, seven and eight or the one, two, three guys in our lineup," Saberhagen said. "We have opportunities to score runs."

Alexandria put together a blueprint that it would love to use more often in the 7-2 win over Thunder Bay on Monday night. The Beetles allowed just six hits, and most importantly, just two walks from four different pitchers. That allowed this offense to break things open with three-run frames in both the second and eighth innings.

Brandon Johnson out of Florida State got his first start of the summer and went three strong innings. The FSU lefty was on a pitch count as the Beetles try to ease him into that 100-pitch mark after working out of the bullpen for the Seminoles this spring. He faced 12 guys during his three innings, allowing two hits and one run before being relieved by Andrew Busby (Mississippi State) in the fourth.

Busby was credited with the win after scattering four hits through three innings. He struck out two and allowed just one run before Michael Reed (LSU) and Caleb DeLee (Meridian CC) combined for three perfect innings to close out the game.

"I think they're doing a much better job of throwing strikes," Saberhagen said of his pitchers. "That's where we were getting in trouble. I think our guys are coming to understand that if you give up one run in an inning, even six times, we're still going to have a great chance to win. When you give up the four, five, six spot, it's kind of demoralizing for the whole team."

The Beetles made sure they didn't waste that pitching effort against Thunder Bay as they pounded out 11 hits. Vavra continued his torrid pace with another three-hit night, picking up his seventh double of the summer.

Alexandria used back-to-back home runs from Beaty and Robert Case in the second inning to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Beaty connected on a two-run shot before Case followed with a solo home run of his own. Beaty finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Dylan Raper (Oklahoma) also added to the offense with three hits and two runs scored.

Getting to .500 with the two wins was a step in the right direction. Now the Beetles will try to build on that as they wrap up a four-game series with the Huskies on Friday and Saturday night in Duluth.

"The thing I'm preaching right now is let's try to win each series," Saberhagen said. "That way, whoever you're playing, you're gaining ground. As long as you can do that, you're making up some ground."


ALEXANDRIA 241 000 100 - 8 15 2

DULUTH 002 000 022 - 6 9 1

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Jon Reed - W, 6IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, 3BB, 4SO; Mitchel Babb - 2IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 3SO; Alex Guilford - 1IP, 3H, 2R, 2ER, 0BB, 0SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Matt Lowenstein - 2-5, 2 runs; Vavra - 0-4; Moore - 3-5, HR, 2 runs, 4 RBI; Beaty - 3-4, HP, 2B; Will Fulmer - 1-3, 2 BB, 1 run; Raper - 0-3, BB; Guerra - 3-5, 2B, 1 run; Case - 2-3, HR, BB, 1 run, 2 RBI; Josh Carpenter - 1-4, 1 run, RBI

ALEXANDRIA 030 010 030 - 7 11 1

THUNDER BAY 100 001 000 - 2 6 0

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Johnson - 3IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 1SO; Busby - W, 3IP, 4H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 2SO; M. Reed - 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 1SO; DeLee - 1IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 2SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Lowenstein - 0-4, BB, 1 run; Vavra - 3-5, 2B; Moore - 1-4, 1 run, RBI; Pickens - 0-4; Padilla - 1-4, 1 run, RBI; Raper - 3-4, 2 runs; Beaty - 2-4, HR, 2B, 1 run, 4 RBI; Case - 1-4, HR, 1 run, RBI; Carpenter - 0-4

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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