A stretch of games that epitomizes summer baseball ended with the Alexandria Legion team going 5-3 while playing eight games in five days.
That kind of workload is how things go for many teams this time of year as they play in weekend tournaments around getting in league games. Those district contests often mean doubleheaders, and that’s what Alexandria hosted on Tuesday night. Post 87 split two games with Thief River Falls, winning the nightcap 8-4 after losing game one 8-7.
“Obviously, we’d like to have both ends of it,” Alexandria coach Chris Koep said. “We didn’t play really well in that first one, but it’s nice to see us bounce back. If you’re going to win one in a doubleheader, it’s kind of nice to get that one and leave the park like that.”
Alexandria (15-10) grabbed a 2-0 lead in game one before Thief River Falls scored seven runs in the second inning, highlighted by a two-run single from Austin Olson.
Isaac Peterson gave Alexandria a chance to rally from there. He entered for starting pitcher Dominic Schmidt to start the third and pitched five innings, allowing just one run.
“The silver lining in eight games in five days is we’re getting some kids some chances,” Koep said. “We got some arms out there on the mound who proved they can get outs for us tonight that just haven’t gotten a ton of opportunities.”
The offense chipped away in the opener. Isaac McCoy drove in two on a couple of run-scoring singles over the last five frames, and Luke Levasseur added an RBI double in the fifth that helped make it 8-7. Alexandria put two on in the seventh but the Bandits’ Keadan Kempert got the final out off the bat of Blake Hoelscher.
The end of an eight-game stretch meant Alexandria’s pitching was nearly spent. Peterson did not throw an inning all high school season, and neither did Andrew Revering, who got the start in game two.
Thief River Falls jumped out to a 3-0 lead behind a two-run single from Zach Westlund in the first inning, but Revering settled in and struck out the side in the second. He went the first five innings for the win before another seldom-used reliever came on in Hoelscher to close it out over the final two frames.
“I love it,” Hoelscher said of getting the chance to throw some innings. “Everybody always wants to be that guy on the mound, be that guy in the spot where they can give their team a win and be in the spotlight.”
Guys like Hoelscher and Revering have pitched as younger players and could be looked upon heading into high school ball next spring to throw more on varsity. That makes this summer a bit of an audition for players like that who are getting more chances to pitch now during a busy part of the schedule.
“Just with the way the high school season worked out this year where we would play a couple games and then have three or four days off, we were able to run the same guys out there over and over,” Koep said. “It worked well for us, but it’s nice for kids to get opportunities this summer that didn’t get that chance this spring.”
Alexandria’s offense immediately answered the early 3-0 deficit in the nightcap with two runs of its own in the bottom of the first inning. Matthew Carlsen set it up with a double before Hoelscher and Peterson (double) had run-producing hits. They then tied it at three apiece in the second on an RBI ground out off the bat of Hoelscher.
It was part of a big game two for Hoelscher. He laced a two-run triple to the right-field fence in the fourth inning that gave Alexandria its first lead before scoring on a wild pitch to make it 6-4. The soon-to-be senior finished with four RBIs in game two.
“I was just trying to get the ball in play,” Hoelscher said of his go-ahead triple. “I’ve been kind of struggling at the plate, and the guy wasn’t throwing very hard. I was just kind of lucky to hit it as hard as I did. It’s definitely refreshing. It’s a kick in the butt where you want to go get some more hits in these next couple games.”
Alexandria never trailed again after the fourth inning as Tate Breitkreutz put the finishing touches on the win with a run-scoring single in the sixth. Post 87 continues to build some momentum ahead of the playoffs. A home doubleheader with Perham on Thursday night that starts at 5 is the only matchup left on the regular-season schedule.
“I think we like where we’re at right now,” Koep said. “We’ve been waiting since this spring for the bats to come around, and they have. We’re still pitching pretty well too. Any time we get in trouble pitching is when we give free bases, but we just feel real good after the Gopher Classic.”
Alexandria will play its district tournament in Detroit Lakes from July 24-28. Post 87 is 9-5 since the calendar turned to July and feeling good about themselves after a slow start to the summer.
“I think we couldn’t feel any better, especially after the way we played this weekend,” Hoelscher said. “When we’re playing good, we can hang with any ball club out there. It’s going to be exciting.”