The Alexandria baseball program always has high expectations coming into a season, and that wasn’t going to change this spring.
The Cardinals were a 14-5 team in 2019, but losses to Little Falls and Bemidji in the Section 8AAA playoffs cut their season short of the ultimate goal of winning a section title. The guys back were eager for an opportunity to go after another state tournament appearance after making state in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
“We feel that if we work hard at practice and focus on the things we can control, we will be competitive in all games,” head coach Jake Munsch said of consistent expectations within the program. “There is a strong interest in baseball, which keeps our numbers very high. The higher numbers creates problems for creating a limited roster, but also increases the pool of talented baseball players that we have.”
The Cardinals did not have a full roster set before things shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they had more good pieces to build around coming into this spring. Blake Hoelscher is a senior who hit .317 with 11 RBIs in 19 games a year ago.
Matthew Carlsen was ready to help lead this group on the mound and at the plate. He hit .429 last spring with a .514 on-base percentage, 14 runs scored and 6 RBIs. Carlsen also posted a 3.94 ERA in 26.2 innings pitched. He struck out 25. Kade Loge was coming off a junior season where he hit .344 with a .432 on-base percentage in 38 plate appearances, as well.
Coaches and players in Minnesota know that a spring season is very much up in the air right now, but Munsch believes his guys would be ready if given the chance.
“Every team across the state is in the same situation we are, so I don't think there is an advantage for anyone,” Munsch said. “The expectations don't change based on the situation. The preparedness to accomplish those expectations has changed. You’re not going to have the full season to have your ups and downs and get into a groove. The focus as always would be to peak at the right time.”
Munsch said he misses countless things about not being able to be with the team this spring.
“Seeing the athletes each day and working on improving our craft is a major component of that,” he said. “Not just baseball wise, but communication in general and developing those relationships.
“We also understand and take seriously the gravity of the situation and how the health and well being our players and families comes first no matter what. There are people who are in much worse situations than us right now. In the end, baseball is just a game we all get to play and enjoy. At the same time, it doesn't take away the fact that baseball is a huge part of our lives and we miss it dearly.”
(Editor’s note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnesota State High School League spring activities season is suspended through at least May 4. Whether a season will be played at all is very much up in the air, but these spring preview stories are meant to give coaches for area teams an opportunity to share what they think their players might be capable of if any type of season is played this year.)