The temperature never got above 40 degrees on Tuesday night at Knute Nelson Baseball Field, but Alexandria's Devan Swerman was the hottest player on the diamond.
After St. Cloud Apollo hung on to win the first half of the doubleheader 5-3, Swerman threw five no-hit innings on Alexandria's way to an 8-4 victory.
"I was working on some mechanical stuff last year, and that caused some of my control to falter," Swerman said. "This year, I feel like I'm putting all the pieces together, and it's been fun so far."
Swerman struck out five batters and stranded all three base runners in his impressive outing. When runs were hard to come by early on, Swerman's efforts kept the Eagles off the scoreboard to earn a split in the Central Lakes Conference matchup.
"I bring a lot of positive emotion," Swerman said. "I try to keep out the negative emotion. If my teammates see a guy that's hyped up, that's going to get them hyped up. I want to be that hype man when I play with a lot of energy. When I make big plays, I let it out."
Shay Endres broke the scoreless tie in the fourth inning when he scored on a wild pitch to put the Cardinals up 1-0. Reid Reisdorf doubled the lead later in the inning with an RBI single, scoring Dayton Downing.
Swerman was hot on both sides of the ball. He smacked an RBI triple over Apollo's Erassy Antsino's head in the top of the fifth. Swerman scored one batter later on a Nate Hammerback RBI double. Hammerback crossed home on Downing's RBI single.
"I was excited to barrel one up," Swerman said. "I got my first hit of the year today with a little poke over the shortstop in the first game. Getting my hands extended on that triple felt good."
Parker Jendro came in relief in the bottom of the sixth inning to face the heart of Apollo's lineup. Three infield singles ended the no-hit bid and pushed two Eagles across home plate. Alexandria added three insurance runs in the top of the seventh to preserve the split.
"(Swerman) came out and shoved it tonight," Alexandria assistant coach Greg Toivonen said. "He got us to the point where we bled a couple runs across in the fourth inning. We made some mistakes, and those are going to happen. After dropping the first one, it was good for us to come back out and get the second."
The Cardinals came close to completing an improbable comeback in the first game of Tuesday night's doubleheader. Down to its last out, Alexandria loaded the bases with the bottom of the batting order. Brock Lerfald ripped a double into the right-centerfield gap to score all three runs and bring the tying run to the plate.
Alexandria's Elijah Holthaus brought the winning run to the plate with a single, which ended a near-complete game pitching performance from Apollo's Eliam Mezquita. But Apollo's Grant Stadther got Endres to ground out to wash away any hopes of a walk-off victory.
"We had one of the best comebacks that I've ever been a part of," Swerman said. "We didn't complete it. It showed us that we could hit the ball against these guys, and it got us fired up for the second game."
Apollo got things started with a two-out bases-loaded walk from James Nyberg in the top of the first in game one. Mezquita helped his cause with an RBI single in the top of the second inning.
Cardinals' starting pitcher J.D. Hennen was able to get out of jams in the first and second inning, but after the first two Eagles' hitters got on base to start the third, his night on the mound was over. Holthaus took over and got out of a bases-loaded predicament to keep the deficit at 2-0.
The Eagles made it a 5-0 game in the top of the sixth inning when Grant Roob drove in two runs with a double. Alex Hausmann scored before the extra-base hit on a fielder's choice.
Errors cost the Cardinals runs in both games. Battling the elements and inexperience in the early part of the season is one of the challenges for the Cardinals.
"We're going to make a couple of errors," Toivonen said. "We need to pick each other up whether it's a big hit or getting a big strikeout. That didn't happen until it was too late in the first game. We couldn't get that third out. The conditions didn't help because it was cold out here tonight."
Swerman is confident Alexandria has yet to play its best game so far this season. At 2-2, the Cardinals are hoping to learn from mistakes so they can play a complete game in the section tournament.
"We definitely didn't play our best game today," Swerman said. "We don't want to make mistakes, but they're the best teaching method. For us to feel these growing pains and ruts now is exactly when we should feel them so we can be playing our best baseball come the section tournament."