Baseball: Alexandria Post 87 overcomes slow start to sweep Bemidji in Legion doubleheader
Big hits by JD Hennen and Augie Gulbranson help Alexandria Post 87 to American Legion League victories in a season-opening doubleheader.
ALEXANDRIA - The Alexandria Zimney Insurance Post 87 baseball team trailed for most of game one of its Minnesota American Legion doubleheader against the Bemidji Centaurs but had the chance to change that in the bottom of the seventh with bases loaded and just one out.
At the plate was catcher Lake Hagen, who had a two-RBI double in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game at five. Hagen’s at-bat in the seventh was a big one as well as he was walked, which allowed Caleb Runge to score and tie the game.
With the game tied and Grady Anderson at the plate, JD Hennen broke for home on a wild pitch and scored the game-winning run for Alexandria.
“When you're in that position, you're just looking for a passed ball that you can score on,” Hennen said. “I got on base and was looking for a passed ball or a hit to score on.”
With the momentum from the ending of game one, Alexandria (2-0) put up four runs in the first inning of game two and went on to win 5-2.
Alexandria head coach Jake Munsch said that the win in game one was an example of the team fighting through adversity.
“I think it was just a continuation of not letting adversity get to us,” Munsch said. “We just kept our cool, kept throwing strikes, making plays and we had some timely hits.”
Bemidji is now 6-3-1 this summer season with the losses on Tuesday.
In game one, Spencer Schmidt earned the win on the mound for Alexandria after coming in to relieve starter Will Suchy in the fourth inning.
Nick Levasseur earned the win on the mound for Alexandria in game two with two strikeouts in four innings pitched.
The Alexandria baseball program is coming off of a successful run at the MSHSL Class AAA State Tournament, where it finished third and its lone loss came in the semifinals by one run to top-ranked Mankato West.
“It was nice to start off the summer with a couple of wins,” Munsch said. “It was really nice to get a bunch of new guys in the game; guys that did a really, really nice job. That’s kind of what this summer is going to be about. Bemidji’s a really good team and to come in and continue our winning ways was really sweet.”
Building off of that state tournament run, Munsch said the program is focused on getting more players different kinds of experience.
“It’s sort of more about the development for our high school players next year and making sure that we're giving people as many at-bats as we possibly can,” Munsch said. “By no means does that mean equal playing time [for everyone] or anything like that. It's more of an opportunity for them to play. That’s kind of what we did here against Bemidji. With that, guys are going to have to play different positions just to allow us to do that, and we had multiple guys in positions they haven't even ever played.”
One of those players who the program is looking to develop even further in the summer is junior Augie Gulbranson, who played first base on Tuesday and played a major role in Alexandria’s third inning rally in game one. Gulbranson got the bats going with an RBI double in the inning.
“He did a really nice job,” Munsch said. “He did a really good job with his high school season just being patient and kind of waiting for his time. He accepted his role and here he came playing in both games and getting multiple hits.”
Gulbranson and Hennen had a game-high two hits and Gulbranson had three total hits on the night.
“They gave me a first-pitch strike most of the time and I took advantage of it,” Gulbranson said.
Moving forward, Munsch said that Gulbranson and many others would be jockeying for different positions on the team.
“There’s going to be a battle for all positions,” Munsch said. "This summer is going to be a good opportunity for those kids to showcase their skills and to give us one last look before we go into next spring. He (Gulbranson) was a prime example of doing that.”
Devin Cimbura led Alexandria in hits in game two with two.
Gulbranson’s goals for the summer are simple, do what he can to get better and help the team moving forward.
“I just want to focus on getting ready and being prepared for districts when that comes around (this summer), and then hopefully make another run at state like we did during the school season,” Gulbranson said.
Hennen is also focused on the team goals before he heads off to Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in the fall, where he’ll play baseball.
“We’ve got a really good team coming off of a third place finish at state,” Hennen said. “I think we have a really good team coming back this summer. I think we can compete against a lot of the big guys and some of the big tournaments we're playing, like down at the Gopher Classic. I think we got a really good shot to do something good as a team. As for me personally, I’m just making sure that I play solid and that I’m getting ready for college next year.”
Alexandria is on the road in Marshall for a tournament Friday through Sunday and will be at home on June 28 for a doubleheader against Moorhead.