The Alexandria baseball team had a bad taste in its mouth after a 12-2 loss at Sartell on Thursday night, so the Cardinals were eager to host their home opener a day later.
Things went much differently with St. Cloud Tech at Knute Nelson Memorial Ballpark on Friday. Alexandria scored two runs on Caleb Runge and Nate Hammerback RBIs in the first inning. The Cardinals never relinquished that lead as they beat the Tigers 5-1 to even their record at 1-1.
“We wanted to come back from last night,” Alexandria second baseman Brock Lerfald said. “That was tough, but we came back tonight and put a good game together.”
Shay Endres made sure that early offense held up. The senior righthander controlled the game through 4 2/3 innings as he struck out nine and allowed no runs to earn the win. He struck out the side in order in the third in what was the first varsity start of his career.
“I’ve pitched a lot of games, so I was pretty relaxed,” Endres said. “Just really happy to be back on the field. I was getting ahead in the count and using my fastball a lot. I had great defense behind me, so that really kept us in the game.”
The Cardinals did not commit an error all night. Endres scattered three hits and three walks as he mixed in a changeup and a curveball with his fastball.
Endres struck out the first two guys he faced in the top of the fifth inning before running into a little bit of trouble with a single and a walk allowed. Devan Swerman came on and immediately got a strikeout looking to get out of the jam. Swerman worked the final 2 1/3 innings and allowed just one run while striking out four to preserve the win for Endres.
“Shay has worked really hard to get to where he’s at,” Alexandria head coach Jake Munsch said. “We want him to attack the zone and throw strikes, and that’s exactly what he did. Lake (Hagen) behind the plate worked awesome with him.”
The Cardinals had just two hits in the loss at Sartell on Thursday night, but bounced back with nine against the Tigers. Lerfald had a home run in the season opener and added two hits on Friday. He was also hit by a pitch as he has hit the ground running in his first varsity at-bats.
“It’s just adjusting to the off-speed,” Lerfald said. “We’re going to see faster pitches. Then when they throw their off-speed, we’re going to get caught off guard, but we’ve been working hard all offseason. We put that on the field tonight.”
Hammerback ignited a two-run fourth inning with a leadoff single. Dayton Downing singled two batters later before JD Hennen drove home a run with a base hit and Will Suchy had a run-scoring ground out. Hammerback concluded the scoring with a run-scoring single in the fifth.
“I’m very confident in the ability of this team to hit,” Munsch said. “I think we’re going to hit better as the year goes on. I think what we saw tonight, we’re going to see often.”
The Cardinals have an entirely new group to the varsity level, so opening up at Sartell was going to be a challenge. That 10-run loss might prove to be against a Sabres program that is one of the better teams in the CLC by season’s end.
“It was a bummer missing out on last year, but I think Munsch has put together great practices. We’re pretty ready for the season,” Endres said. “As a team, we came out today swinging a lot better. We looked really comfortable in the box.”
Munsch’s goal for this group is simple. He wants them to focus on being better through every practice and game than they were the day before. That’s why he was proud of the way they responded on Friday night to even their record through the first two games.
“We just want to peak when we need to peak. That’s the end of the year,” Munsch said. “We know we’re going to have some growing pains, and that’s OK. We have them every single season. Last night was a growing pain and a humbling experience. That could happen any night in the CLC...The way we bounced back today, though, says a lot about our team.”
ST. CLOUD TECH 000 001 0 - 1 5 2
ALEXANDRIA 200 210 x - 5 9 0
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Shay Endres - W, 4.2IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 3BB, 9SO; Devan Swerman - 2.1IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 4SO
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Elijah Holthaus - 1-3, 1 run; Grady Anderson - 0-1; Brock Lerfald - 2-2, HBP, 1 run; Endres - 1-3, 1 run; Caleb Runge - 0-2, BB, RBI; Nate Hammerback - 2-2, 2B, 1 run, 2 RBI; Swerman - 0-3; Dayton Downing - 1-3, 1 run; JD Hennen - 1-3, RBI; Will Suchy - 0-3, RBI