The Alexandria baseball team got swept in a doubleheader at its home park on Tuesday night in a rematch of the Section 8AAA title game from last spring.
The Cardinals welcomed in Brainerd and led in both games early on. The Warriors (5-3) rallied to win game one 5-3 before winning 4-2 in the nightcap. The two losses dropped Alexandria to 3-4 on the season after falling for the fourth straight time.
“We just wanted to come out and win a couple games,” Alexandria head coach Jake Munsch said. “We lost a couple, and at worst case scenario we wanted to split. I feel that we’re a better team than they are. We just didn’t do some things right tonight. We left a lot of runners on base. Our pitchers gave us a chance to win. They took advantage of our mistakes, we didn’t take advantage of theirs’. End of story.”
Sophomore pitcher Jake Drew gave the Cardinals a complete-game performance with six strikeouts in game two. Only one of the four runs he allowed was earned as Alexandria was charged with five errors. A couple of those came on some bad hops on ground balls to shortstop and second base, but the Warriors took advantage with three unearned runs.
Brainerd overcame a 1-0 deficit with a three-run third inning that started with an infield single. The Warriors added an insurance run in the sixth before Alexandria threatened in the seventh. The Cardinals scored a run on a Noah Hittle sacrifice fly to center but left the bases loaded. Brainerd reliever Taylor Streiff got out of the jam by grabbing a comebacker and running to first base himself for the final out.
“We just had to go out and try to get the hits, but they weren’t coming when they were most needed,” Hittle said. “When they got their hits, they were bloop shots. It is what it is. We have guys hitting the ball and we have guys who are just starting to hit the ball. We just have to put it together.”
The Cardinals had chances to open up both games early. They grabbed the 1-0 lead in game two during the first inning on an RBI-single from Hittle. The bases were loaded with one out before a strikeout and a groundout to third allowed Brainerd’s Chris Pederson to escape without any further damage.
Alexandria also led 1-0 in the first inning of game one after an RBI single from senior Travis Krueger. The Cardinals had a chance to add to that lead in the fourth with runners on first and third with one out. They couldn’t push any runs across that inning as Brainerd answered with two runs in the top of the fifth to take its first lead.
The Cardinals regrouped to take back the lead at 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth. Once again it was Hittle who came through as he fouled off a bunch of two-strike pitches before hitting a two-run single.
The Warriors took the lead for good in the top of the sixth. Brainerd executed its second squeeze play of the game to score the tying run. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Matt Casperson made it 4-3 before the Warriors added another run on an infield single later that inning.
“We obviously left a couple pitches up as a pitching staff,” Alexandria senior Danny Kuhn said. “But also, we probably need to hit the ball a little better and make a few more plays in the field. We had a few more errors that last game.”
Kuhn got the start in game one and took the loss after being charged with four runs. He was cruising early on as he held Brainerd scoreless through four innings. The Warriors finally got to him for the two runs in the fifth when they bunched together three hits and used a run-scoring suicide squeeze. Kuhn started the sixth but left with two men on and nobody out as Quinn Gibson came on in relief.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” Kuhn said. “I had my off-speed working for the first four innings and then the last two it started to go not where I wanted it to. Couldn’t control my breaking stuff at the end of the game, and I think that’s what cost us.”
Kuhn is the senior on this staff with the most experience back on the mound. Munsch said he has been very happy with the way all of his guys have thrown this season by giving their team a chance almost every time out.
The Cardinals have been in almost every game. The only one that got away from them was a 10-2 loss to Bemidji in the second game of a doubleheader on April 17.
Munsch knew the beginning of the schedule would be tough with perennial section powers Bemidji and Brainerd, along with Central Lakes Conference teams in Apollo and Sartell-St. Stephen. That’s why he’s not too concerned after falling under .500 this early in the spring.
“I’m not worried,” Munsch said. “The guys, they want to work at it. They want to get better, and we know the things we need to do. They’re confident that we’re going to move in a positive direction here. We’re excited to see Brainerd in the playoffs. We’re going to see them again, and hopefully we beat them when we have to. We obviously want to do well in the regular season, but in the grand scheme of things, tonight’s games are meaningless compared to what the playoffs will bring us.”