Baseball: Alexandria Junior Black Team eliminated from playoffs with extra-inning loss to Mankato West
The Alexandria Integrity Title Junior Black team came back from 3-0 with a big fifth inning but lost 4-3 in a extra-inning nail-bitter
ALEXANDRIA - After beating the Alexandria Soderholm Family Insurance and Oral Surgery Red Team 7-5 in a Minnesota American Legion D1 Junior League Sub-state G elimination game earlier in the day, the Alexandria Integrity Title Junior Black Team had another elimination game at Knute Nelson Memorial Park on Wednesday.
This elimination game came against Mankato West. Down 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth, the pressure was on Alexandria, and it delivered. Alexandria tied things up at three with a two-RBI double by Sawyer Rumohr and a run scored on a sacrifice fly hit by Gavin Klimek. These three runs forced the game to go to extra innings.
After two scoreless innings, Mankato West delivered the final blow with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, with an RBI single that was almost thwarted by a terrific diving stop and throw by Alexandria third baseman Gavin Klimek. Mankato West then got the outs it needed to win 4-3 and advance to another elimination game on Thursday.
“We had our opportunities; we were getting guys on base almost every inning,” head coach Lee Backhaus said. “And we just didn't get the timeliest that hit we needed."
Alexandria had the chance to deliver the game-winning run as bases were loaded in the bottom of the seventh with just one out. But Mankato West had other plans as it got the strikeouts it needed to force extras.
Mankato West scored a run in each of the first three innings, all of which were unearned.
On the mound, Carter Simonson threw seven and two-thirds innings and struck out six batters.
Brady Swensrud had two of Alexandria’s five hits in the game. In addition to Rumohr’s RBI double and Swensrud’s two hits, Caleb Gimbel and Cam Simon had hits as well.
The Alexandria black team was outscored 7-4 in the first three innings in the two games on Wednesday combined but outscored its two foes 6-2 from the fourth inning and on. Alexandria began the tournament with a 17-5 loss to Hutchinson.
With a win and a loss on Wednesday, Alexandria finished the season 16-6.
Backhaus and assistant coach Eric Waage are proud of what the team accomplished this season, on and off the field.
“We talked to the team, and our goal is to make them a better person, then to make them a better ball player; and hopefully, we did that,” Backhaus said while trying to hold back tears. “I saw a lot of head shakes when we said that to them. They’re great kids, and I think that they were very happy. We had a lot of hugs. I think we made them better people and better baseball players.”
The 2022 season was a successful one for Alexandria which included winning two home tournaments.
And through this season, Backhaus said that this team responded well to adversity.
“They’re starting to respond to adversity a whole lot better,” Backhaus said. “This team has had a lot of success. There are some very talented baseball players, and at the beginning of the season, when things didn't go their way, they played the blame game or tried to find excuses. And I said, ‘You’ve got to keep grinding; you’ve got to keep working hard at it. You have got to be able to take the bus on the road.’ I think here, at the end of the season, we have that pretty well under control. That's probably the best thing that I'm happiest about is that we're not playing the blame game anymore.”
Most of the players on this Alexandria team will be juniors in high school this fall.
“It's a big step from JV to varsity as a group,” Backhaus said. “It's going to take some extra work because there's a good class of players that have had some success ahead of them.”
Backhaus said that they will have exit interviews with the team now that the season is over.
Backhaus is confident that this group of players can make an impact moving forward in the next few years. This includes Simonson, Gimbel and Jordan Kuhnau, among others.
“Caleb Gimbel is kind of a silent leader,” Backhaus said. “ He's got a very high baseball IQ. He knows how the game is supposed to be played. Jordan Kuhnau has a solid year. I can’t say enough positive things about Gage Castle, our centerfielder. He’s solid in the lineup every day, he’s had great at-bats, and every day has played solid defense. Carter’s a special talent at pitcher.”