Baseball: Alexandria beats Ohio State commit, Mike Miller, and St. Thomas Academy to make state semifinals
The Cardinals had three hits and a run in the first inning against the Cadets' ace, and they never trailed in a 4-2 win that sends them on to a game against No. 1-seeded Mankato West on Wednesday in Chaska.
CHASKA — The Alexandria baseball team got its state tournament run off on the right foot on Tuesday afternoon as the Cardinals beat St. Thomas Academy 4-2 to secure a spot in the Class AAA semifinals on Wednesday.
Alexandria (20-6) is the fifth seed in the bracket, but the Cardinals never trailed against the fourth-seeded Cadets (19-8). Reed Reisdorf, Caleb Runge and JD Hennen all singled in the first inning, with Hennen’s hit driving in Reisdorf to make it 1-0.
That all came against hard-throwing St. Thomas Academy junior Mike Miller. Miller has already made a college commitment to play in the Big Ten at Ohio State University.
“We were facing a good pitcher. We knew that coming in,” Hennen said. “We just had to get on him right away, and that’s what we did. Scored a run in the first inning with a couple of hits on him. It’s just huge to get that out of the way and then move on to tomorrow.”
Just one of the four runs Miller allowed was earned, but Alexandria made him work all afternoon. The Cardinals had six hits and drew five walks against him, forcing Miller out of the game after five innings.
"We just knew to sit fastball," Hennen said. "That’s what he’s coming with most of the time. That’s his best pitch. He was a little bit wild also at the beginning of the game, so we were just making sure we got our pitch in our spot so we could swing at it and drive it."
Alexandria added three unearned runs in the top of the fourth inning on three St. Thomas Academy errors to take a 4-0 lead.
Devin Cimbura led off with a ground ball to third that went for a throwing error on Blake Fritz. Wyatt Mohr then put down a perfectly-placed bunt in the next at-bat that led to another Cadets’ throwing error that scored the second run of the game.
Runge, who went 2-for-3 at the plate, drove in a run for Alexandria after that before an error at second base gave the Cardinals all the momentum with a four-run lead.
“It’s huge, and what a lot of people miss is the execution of our players to bunt the ball in the right direction,” Alexandria head coach Jake Munsch said of that inning. “We know how the defense is going to play. We work on bunting the ball away from the defense just like we work on things defensively. It really made them rush the ball, and they throw it away and we score three runs.”
Hennen had a no-hitter going on the mound at that point, but seven walks through four innings had made for some long innings in temperatures that were near the mid-90’s.
“I felt pretty good,” Hennen said. “There were a couple batters I kept losing. My hands were a little sweaty with the ball. It’s really hot out here, but no excuses. I just lost a couple batters. I felt pretty good for the most part, got my curveball to work a little bit more toward the end of the game. At the beginning, it wasn’t working too well, but I had to figure it out and fight through it.”
Gavin Engelbert got the Cadets’ first hit to lead off the fifth inning before a one-out single from Fritz drove in St. Thomas Academy’s first run to make it 4-1.
Hennen got one more strikeout ahead of senior Parker Jendro coming in for him on the mound with two outs and runners on first and third. Jendro immediately induced a fly out to shallow center field to leave them stranded and keep the lead intact at 4-1.
The Cadets got an unearned run in the seventh inning on a ground ball with two outs that Reisdorf could not handle cleanly while charging it to try to make a throw. But Jendro left the tying run at the plate when he got a strikeout to end the game.
Jendro has been good all season, and he was again on Tuesday. He threw the final 2 1/3 innings to earn the save.
“What else can you say? The kid came in and threw strikes and basically shut the door,” Munsch said. “The pitching staff has been really good all year. Giving up two runs to a team that scored a lot of runs throughout the season, I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. They played really well and represented Alex very nicely.”
Now they have a chance to do it again on Wednesday against the No. 1 seed in the Class AAA tournament.
Mankato West and Alexandria will play at noon at the Chaska Athletic Field. The winner advances to the state championship game on Friday at 4 p.m. at Target Field. The loser will play in the third-place game on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Chaska.
“I think our guys can go out there against anyone and put up a good fight,” Hennen said. “We got a really good chance to beat that team. We’ve got Jaxon Schoenrock on the mound, who’s been really good this year. We got a good chance.”
Mankato West is 24-1, but needed a walk-off win in the quarterfinals to beat Saint Francis in a 1-0 game on Tuesday. Mankato West's lone loss was in a 4-1 game against Class 4A’s Owatonna on May 26. The Scarlets average 8.2 runs per game and have allowed a Class AAA-low 2.0 runs per game this spring.
The Cardinals are excited for an opportunity to face the top-ranked team in the state with a trip to the state championship game up for grabs.
“Mankato West is a good baseball team, just like everyone else down here,” Munsch said. “Whoever doesn’t make the mistakes is going to be the team to win the game. We expect to give them a run for their money and put it all out there. The pressure is on them. They’re the No. 1 seed.”
(Editor's note: The first version of this story stated that the Class AAA state championship game will be played on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Target Field. The championship game will be played on Friday, June 17 at 4 p.m.)
ALEXANDRIA 100 300 0 - 4 7 1
ST. THOMAS ACADEMY 000 010 1 - 2 3 3
PITCHING - Alexandria - JD Hennen - W, 4.2IP, 2H, 1R, 1ER, 7BB, 9SO; Parker Jendro - 2.1IP, 1H, 1R, 0ER, 0BB, 1SO; St. Thomas Academy - Mike Miller - L, 5IP, 6H, 4R, 1ER, 5BB, 6SO; Edwin Gray - 2IP, 1H, 0R, 1BB, 1SO
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Reed Reisdorf - 1-3, BB, 1 run; Brock Lerfald - 0-4; Caleb Runge - 2-3, HBP, RBI, 1 run; Hennen - 1-3, BB, RBI; Jendro - 0-1; Jaxon Schoenrock - 0-1, 2 BB; Nate Hammerback - 0-3; Grady Anderson - 0-3, BB; Devin Cimbura - 1-2, 1 run; Wyatt Mohr - 1-3; August Gulbranson - 1 run; Lake Hagen - 1-1
ST. THOMAS ACADEMY OFFENSE - Robert Cunningham - 0-3, BB; Daniel Dahl - 0-4; Gavin Engelbert - 1-2, 2 BB, 1 run; Bennett Kotok - 1-2, BB, HBP; Rex Fitzgerald - 1 run; Asa Rapp - 0-3; Blake Fritz - 1-4, RBI; Michal Stavseth - 0-3, BB; Jonathan Dobis - 0-1, 2 BB; Keegan Cashill - 0-2; Noah Erickson - 0-1