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State baseball: Hibbing, Marshall both stun Cards with walk-offs as Alexandria finishes fourth in Class AAA

Alexandria senior Connor Busse (left) and the rest of the Cardinals' dugout looks on in disbelief after Hibbing rallied to tie the game and eventually win it with a five-run seventh inning on Friday. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)1 / 7
Alexandria senior Conner Hammerback celebrates toward his dugout after hitting a two-run triple that gave the Cardinals a 7-3 lead against Hibbing on Friday at Siebert Field. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)2 / 7
Alexandria's Mitchell Toivonen slides safely into home for a run in the middle innings against Hibbing. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)3 / 7
Alexandria junior Brock Anderson throws in the first inning of Friday's state semifinal game against Hibbing. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)4 / 7
Alexandria's Jake Drew hustles around third base to score a run for the Cardinals at Siebert Field on the University of Minnesota campus. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)5 / 7
Alexandria's Jake Drew throws in the seventh inning against Hibbing on Friday at Siebert Field. Drew took the loss on the mound after the Bluejackets rallied with five runs. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)6 / 7
Hibbing players celebrate their win after sophomore Will Durie hit a walk-off single threw a drawn-in infield to win an 8-7 game in the state semifinals on Friday. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)7 / 7

The Alexandria baseball team had a four-run lead and was three outs away from advancing to the Class AAA state championship game on Monday.

The Cardinals had hard-throwing righty Jake Drew on the mound to close things out. Hibbing needed a stunning rally, and that’s exactly what it got.

The Bluejackets (19-8) squared up six hits in the seventh inning, including back-to-back doubles from Anthony Kanipes and Dylan Mattson. Mattson’s drove in two runs to tie the game at seven.

A walk followed and a balk advanced runners to second and third with one out.

That’s when sophomore Will Durie delivered the walk-off winner as his hard-hit grounder made it through a drawn-in infield to score Mattson for an 8-7 win.

“I just wasn’t placing my pitches right,” Drew said. “I was leaving them up, and they’re an excellent hitting team. I’ll give them that. They’re a good hitting ballclub. I was missing my spots, and they were taking advantage of it.”

The loss forced the Cardinals to turn right around and play Marshall, where they faced a similar fate. Alexandria (20-7) rallied from a 7-3 deficit against the Tigers (20-7) to take a 9-8 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning. That led to another heartbreaker as Marshall loaded the bases on Brady Burgau and Logan Tomasek delivered a two-out single to secure a 10-9 walk-off win. It left the Cardinals looking back on a season that finished with a fourth-place trophy.

“It’s obviously a really difficult day, but the message to the guys is I don’t want 30 minutes to tarnish all the great things they’ve done this year,” head coach Jake Munsch said. “From the way they played on the field, to their leadership ability when they’re down. I want them to remember they’re one of the best teams to walk through our program. We have a fourth-place trophy we didn’t have before, and that’s something they should be proud of.”

The Cardinals had no regrets with the strategy they went with against Hibbing. Drew missed all of last season on the mound with an elbow injury that required Tommy John Surgery, but he had been almost unhittable since returning to pitch late this season in the closer’s role.

Drew was clocking at around 87-88 miles per hour with his fastball. The Bluejackets made it back-to-back days where they hit solid pitching after also scoring nine runs and knocking off a previously unbeaten St. Cloud Tech team on Thursday.

“If we replay that exact situation 1,000 times, we would do it 1,000 times the same exact way,” Munsch said. “Jake got hit. One the few times he does. Tip your hat to Hibbing for putting the bat on the ball, but Jake’s our closer. He’s our best pitcher, and we’d throw him out there every time again.”

Alexandria trailed 3-2 after two innings against Hibbing but scored five unanswered runs through the third and fourth. Conner Hammerback had a two-run triple in the fourth inning that looked like it might be the hit that sent the Cardinals to Target Field.

“We played this whole year feeling great,” Hammerback said. “Our emotions aren’t that much right now. We’re going to come right back this summer and keeping winning games.”

That was the mindset the Cardinals took into the game with Marshall. What could have been a tough situation to bounce back from against Hibbing turned into an example of how the Cardinals have battled much of this season.

The Cardinals could have folded in the third-place game when Marshall scored seven runs in the second inning to take a 7-3 lead. Instead, they rallied for two runs in each of the third, fourth and sixth innings.

“It’s part of it,” Hammerback said of having to turn right around and play after the disappointment of the Hibbing loss. “We’re at the state tournament, and it’s an awesome feeling being here. We’re one of eight teams in the state to come and play. We wanted to take full advantage of it and try to win every game.”

Drew didn’t dwell on the loss and bounced back with a big game himself against Marshall. He hit a three-run home run in the first inning and added a run-scoring double in the sixth that gave Alexandria an 8-7 lead. He was 3-for-4 with two runs and five RBIs against the Tigers.

“For us to say we weren’t upset and down would be a lie,” Munsch said. “It’s OK to experience that because that’s all part of growth as a human being. I told them let’s be mad for 10 minutes and get ready to play a ball game. They battled. They did everything they could and Marshall just got some hits at the end.”

The Cardinals will likely always remember how close they came to making a state championship appearance, but the memories they made throughout the entire season will last as well. This was the first team to win a state tournament game in program history after snapping a 42-year drought without a section championship.

“I’ll just remember having the best baseball club that’s ever come through Alexandria,” Drew said. “The chemistry all the guys had and how much we loved each other throughout the season, how much we believed in each other. It was just a great season.”

Friday was one tough day at the end of what was otherwise one of the most memorable seasons in Alexandria history for all the right reasons.

“I’ve never seen a team that wants it more than this team did,” Munsch said. “It breaks my heart to know we had to lose that way. I was just fortunate enough to be their coach. I’ll look back on this as one of the greatest years I’ve had being a coach.”

ALEXANDRIA     302 202 0 - 9 10 1

MARSHALL     070 001 2 - 10 13 3

PITCHING - Alexandria - Blake Anderson - 1.2IP, 8H, 7R, 0ER, 0BB, 2SO; Brady Burgau - L, 5IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 6BB, 4SO; Marshall - Isaac Schmidt - 3.1IP, 6H, 7R, 5ER, 2BB, 0SO; Ryan VanMoer - 2IP, 3H, 2R 2ER, 1BB, 1SO; Kenneth Morris - W, 1.2IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 3SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Connor Busse - 1-3, BB; Mitchell Toivonen - 0-1, 2 runs; Brock Anderson - 2-4, 2B, 2 runs, RBI; Blake Anderson - 0-2, BB, 2 runs; Austin Johnson - 1 run; Jake Drew - 3-4, HR, 2 2B, 2 runs, 5 RBI; Conner Hammerback - 2-4, RBI; Reed Larson - 1-4, 2B; B. Burgau - 1-4, RBI; Braden Reisdorf - 0-2; Hunter Schoenrock - 0-1; Tryg Burgau - 0-2, BB

ALEXANDRIA      202 300 0 - 7 7 2

HIBBING              300 000 5 - 8 13 1

PITCHING - Alexandria - Brock Anderson - 5IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 6SO; Brady Burgau - 1IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 1SO; Drew - L, 1/3IP, 6H, 5R, 5ER, 1BB, 0SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Busse - 1-3, 2 runs; Brock Anderson - 0-3, BB, 1 run; Blake Anderson - 1-1, 2 BB, 2 runs, 2 RBI; Drew - 2-3, 2 2B, 1 run, 2 RBI; Hammerback - 1-3, 3B, 3 RBI; Reed Larson - 0-3, RBI; B. Burgau - 0-2, 2 BB; Michael Kuhn - 0-2; Thomas Anderson - 1-1; Tryg Burgau - 1-3, 2B; Mitchell Toivonen - 1 run

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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