Alexandria splits home doubleheader against Sartell, Cards hope for rematch in section tournament

Alexandria and Sartell each had a big inning in their wins in Friday's season finale doubleheader at AAHS.

Jordan O'Kane (left) celebrates scoring a fifth-inning run with Maci Tilleskjor in Alexandria's game-one win over Sartell on May 21, 201. The Cardinals split with the Sabres in the final games of Alxandria's regular season. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

The two favorites for the Section 8-3A softball crown met for the first time in the final two games of the regular season, and they proved to be two evenly matched teams.

After a big fifth inning propelled Alexandria (14-6) to a 12-4 win in game one, Sartell (16-2) put up a crooked number late in game two to win 8-2. When it was all said and done, Alexandria head coach Randy Albers liked what he saw out of his girls in the doubleheader split.

“I think these were two of the best fastpitch games that we’ve had,” Albers said. “The score got away from us at the end of game two, but it was a good game up until that point. We’re very pleased. After how we played in Brainerd, which wasn’t great and to come out here and play against the favorite in the section, this was huge.”

Emma Magaard (left) and Emily Harris signal how many outs Alexandria has recorded in the top of the sixth inning in the Cardinals' 12-4 game-one win over Sartell on May 21, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)


Alexandria struggled to get to the Sartell pitcher in game two. Before a two-run seventh inning, the Cardinals had one hit– a first-inning single off the bat of Brooke Stender.

“She threw a little slower than the first two pitchers we saw today,” Stender said. “Earlier this week, we practiced hitting against faster pitching. We knew Brainerd and Sartell had girls who threw faster, so it was hard for us to adjust to the slower pitches.”

Stender doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh before scoring on a fielder’s choice. Senior Maci Tilleskjor drove in a run with a sharp single, but it was too little too late.

Sartell’s big sixth inning was the nail in Alexandria’s coffin. The Sabres scored six runs on two hits, two errors and three walks.

“What we told the girls after the game is that hitting-wise and pitching-wise are canceling each other out against Sartell,” Albers said. “It’s going to come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes. That’s the team who’s going to win the section. Whether it’s us, Sartell or whomever, that’ll make the difference.”

Emma Magaard hits a double down the third-base line in the fifth inning of Alexandria's game-one win over Sartell on May 21, 2021. The Cardinals beat the Sabres 12-4 before falling 8-2 in the last game of the regular season. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Alexandria was the last undefeated team in Section 8-3A play this season for about a half-hour, thanks to a 10-run fifth inning in game one. The Cardinals walked seven times in the frame while recording three hits. The biggest blow came off the bat of senior Emma Magaard, who delivered a two-run double down the third-base line.


“It’s so fun to hit when things are going like that,” Stender said. “Innings like that make the whole team feel really good at the plate. It makes you want to play even better defensively to keep that lead.”

Alexandria’s defense was the difference-maker in game one. The Cardinals turned two double plays and made a handful of spectacular plays to prevent extra-base hits. Stender, who plays second base, loves being there for her two starting pitchers.

“It’s really important for them to have us play our best,” Stender said. “It can get hard on them when we make a lot of mistakes in one inning. For us to not make those mistakes and help them get outs is so important for us.”

Jordan O’Kane and Emily Harris can strike out batters but will pitch to contact for the most part. The two starters recorded three total strikeouts in 13 innings, which is a constant test for the Cardinals’ fundamentals behind them.

Emma Magaard (left) looks for a high five from Emily Harris after sliding into home in the fifth inning of Alexandria's 12-4 win in game one of the May 21, 2021 doubleheader against Sartell. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

“They both pitch well,” Albers said. “It’s that kind of pitching that should always keep us in a game. We are very pleased with our pitching, and we do not lose games because of our pitching. It’s just our defensive shortcomings in some innings, and that’s going to happen.”

Stender shines in breakout season

Sartell scored first in both games. In the first inning of game one, the Sabres put up three runs on three hits. However, Stender provided Alexandria’s response with a two-run home run in the bottom of the frame.


“I came back shaking, and I was like ‘Oh my gosh,’” Stender said.

Stender is turning in an impressive junior season both in the field and at the plate. She’s hitting a team-high batting average of .479 with an on-base-plus-slugging of 1.326. While her home run on Friday was the first of her varsity career, she’s no stranger to extra bases. Stender has five doubles and two triples in her 23 hits on the season.

Jordan O'Kane (front) and Brooke Stender chat during a pitching change in the fifth inning of Alexandria's 12-4 game-one win over Sartell on May 21, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

“In all honesty, and we’ve had some kids that have done some really wonderful things for us for the first time at the varsity level, but defensively and offensively, she’s kind of our core,” Albers said. “Defensively outstanding, and she gets on base a ton. She has power, and she’s going to hit more home runs.”

Stender’s fielding percentage is .918, which ranks second on the team for everyday players. But she isn’t focused on putting up the best stats. Stender is looking forward to doing her part in the playoffs.

“I’m excited, and I know the whole team is excited,” Stender said. “We want to come out and play like we did in the first game today. Hopefully (Sartell) is intimidated by us because we came to play in the first game.”

Alexandria and Sartell are the only two teams in the section with winning records. Despite both teams having only one section loss, the Cardinals will most likely get the No. 2 seed. The Cardinals and Sabres could easily meet again down the road. But Albers is focused on getting his girls to take it one game at a time.


Emily Harris deals in the top of the six inning during her complete-game win over Sartell on May 21, 2021. Alexandria won the first game in Friday's doubleheader 12-4 before dropping the second 8-2. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

“The coach for Sartell and I were talking about how anybody can beat anybody in this section,” Albers said. “That’s the reality when you see each other a lot in the regular season. You can’t be overconfident. It is double elimination, but you don’t want to drop that first game. On paper, we’re hoping it’s us and (Sartell). We want another shot at them.”

SARTELL 301 000 0 - 4

ALEXANDRIA 200 0 10 00 - 12

ALEXANDRIA HITTING- Emma Magaard 1-5, 2RBI; Jordan O’Kane 1-2, 3R, BB, 2B; Brooke Stender 2-2, 2R, 3RBI, HR, 2B, 2BB; Kinzie Johnson 1-4, R, 2RBI; Emily Harris 0-3, R, BB; Maci Tilleskjor 1-3, R, RBI, BB; Maddie Buboltz 1-3, R, 2RBI, 2B, BB; Maddie Magnuson 0-1, 3BB, R; Aubrie Porter 0-3; Madi Heid 0-1; PITCHING- Harris- W, 7IP, 8H, 4R, 3ER, 1K, 2BB

ALEXANDRIA 000 000 2 - 2

SARTELL 010 016 X - 8


HITTING- Emma Magaard 0-3; Jordan O’Kane 0-3; Brooklyn Stender 2-3, 2B, R; Emily Harris 0-3, R; Kinzie Johnson 0-3, RBI; Maci TIlleskjor 1-3, RBI; Maddie Buboltz 0-3; Josie Steidl 0-3; Chloe Loch 0-2; PITCHING- O’Kane- L, 6IP, 5H, 8R, 4ER, 2K, 5BB

Randy Albers (left) and Maddie Magnuson chat before her fifth-inning at-bat in Alexandria's 12-4 game one win over Sartell on may 21, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
What To Read Next
Get Local