Alexandria Junior Legion Black fights off elimination in six games to earn trip to state

The run to a district title includes a dramatic walk-off win over Alexandria Junior Legion Red and then two wins in the championship round against the only team that beat the Junior Legion Blacks in the tournament.

AxJrBlackBB Team.jpg
The Alexandria Integrity Title Junior Legion Black baseball team holds up its district championship trophy after winning six straight games in Marshall from July 22-24, 2021 to secure a spot at the junior legion state tournament that starts this week with Alexandria playing the host team, Bloomington, at 6 p.m. on July 29. (Contributed photo)

It took a marathon run to get the job done, but the Integrity Title Junior Legion Black baseball team from Alexandria won six straight games from July 22 through July 24 to win its district tournament and secure a spot at the state tournament.

After dropping a 5-2 game to Mankato West in the tournament opener, Alexandria beat Hutchinson 11-0, Marshall 5-4, Mankato East 11-5, Alexandria Red 7-6, and then Mankato West 7-1 and 10-6 to finish off its championship run.

“This team has come so far since March,” head coach Lee Backhaus said. “They worked hard and overcame a ton of adversity. They have gelled as a true team with each person accepting his role and being willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. They learned to believe in each other and not overextend themselves. They were told they could do this and went out and did it.”

The opening loss meant Alexandria needed to beat Mankato West twice on the final day. The 7-1 win in the first game on July 24 was led by Matthew Hornstein’s performance on the mound. He went 6 1/3 innings and allowed just one run on three hits and four walks. He struck out five before Augie Gulbranson got the final two outs.

Max Hess was 1-for-1 with three walks, a run scored and two RBIs in that game. Hornstein and Gulbranson both drove in one run as well.


That sent these two teams into a true championship game later that afternoon. Alexandria won 10-6 by collecting seven hits and using six Mankato errors to its advantage.

Tyler Kludt had two RBIs and four runs scored in the game. Jaxon Schoenrock doubled, walked, scored a run and drove in a run, while Cole Vatnsdal also drove in two on a hit and a walk.

Hess kept the Mankato bats at bay through a seven-inning complete game. He allowed eight hits, but walked nobody, striking out four on his way to allowing four earned runs.

Alexandria's Augie Gulbranson connects with a pitch during a game against Perham on June 21, 2021. Gulbranson had a game-winning base hit in a walk-off win over the Alexandria Junior Legion Reds baseball team on July 23 that sent the Junior Legion Black team to the championship round of the district tournament against Mankato West. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

The Alexandria Junior Blacks also benefited from some late-game dramatics against their younger counterparts from Alexandria in a 7-6 win leading into that championship round. That game was tied 6-6 going to the bottom of the seventh inning before Gulbranson's hit brought in Hornstein for the game winner in the 7-6 final. Hornstein led off the inning with a walk.

The Soderholm Insurance and Oral Surgery Junior Legion Red team beat New Ulm 8-2 behind five RBIs from Jordan Kuhnau after he homered and doubled. Grayson Grove got the win in that game by allowing just two runs on six hits and two walks through seven innings.

The Alexandria Reds also beat Marshall 6-5 before their run came to an end after a loss to Mankato West and the Alexandria Blacks. Gage Castle and Carter Simonson each drove in two runs in the win over Marshall as Simonson and Kuhnau both doubled in that one.


The Alexandria Junior Legion Black team persevered through an up-and-down start to the summer and will now take an 18-12-1 record into the junior legion state tournament. Alexandria opens that tournament against the host team, Bloomington, on Thursday, July 29, at 6 p.m.

“A huge thing about this team is how humble they have become,” Backhaus said. “I even overheard a player say to teammates before we shook hands with Alex Red when we had eliminated them from district competition Friday night say, ‘Be humble to Red in this win.’ I’m proud of this team as they have worked hard and earned everything they have obtained.”

( Editor's note: The original version of this story had Wyatt Mohr getting the game-winning hit against the Alexandria Junior Legion Reds team. Augie Gulbranson was the player who drove in that game-winning run in the 7-6 victory.)


MANKATO WEST 000 130 2 - 6 8 6

ALEXANDRIA BLACK 140 212 X - 10 7 3

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Max Hess - W, 7IP, 8H, 6R, 4ER, 0BB, 4SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Tyler Kludt - 1-5, 4 runs, 2 RBI; Jaxon Schoenrock - 1-2, 2B, BB, 1 run, RBI; Cole Vatnsdal - 1-2, BB, 2 RBI; Mathew Hornstein - 2-2, RBI; Augie Gulbranson - 0-3, BB, 1 run; Piper Hanish - 0-2, BB, 1 run, RBI; Tripp Shatek - 1-4, 1 run; Spencer Schmidt - 1-3, BB, 1 run, RBI; Jake Westphall - 0-4, 1 run


ALEXANDRIA BLACK 100 040 2 - 7 7 1

MANKATO WEST 010 000 0 - 1 3 2

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Mathew Hornstein - W, 6.1IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 4BB, 5SO; Gulbranson - 0.2IP, 0H, 0R, 1BB, 0SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Kludt - 1-5; Schoenrock - 1-3, BB, 2 runs; Vatnsdal - 2-4, BB, 1 run; Hornstein - 0-2, BB, 1 run, RBI; Hanish - 0-3, BB; Nick Levasseur - 0-4; Shatek - 1 run; Gulbranson - 2-3, RBI; Hess - 1-1, 3 BB, 1 run, 2 RBI; Jake Westphall - 0-3, 1 run

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
What To Read Next
Get Local