Baseball: Alexandria thumps Willmar at home ahead of key stretch of road games
Alexandria earned a dominant win over Willmar on Thursday, 14-3, and now is set for a couple of key road games in the next week.
ALEXANDRIA - According to head coach Jake Munsch, the Alexandria baseball team has put an emphasis on having a strong mental approach at the plate and stepping into the batter's box with a plan in recent practices.
That focus paid off in Thursday's game at Knute Nelson Memorial Park against Willmar, as Alexandria made the most of its opportunities at the plate in a 14-3 win in five innings.
"It's obvious they've taken that to heart," Munsch said. "They had a different approach at the plate when it comes to what are they looking for in the first pitch or if they're down 0-2 in a count. I'm very proud of how they've done with it."
This win is Alexandria's second large win of the season over Willmar this season, as Alexandria beat Willmar 20-0 in five innings at Target Field in Minneapolis on April 22, 2023.
Alexandria (5-6, 3-0 Section 8AAA) began the game with a bang as junior Jordan Kuhnau blasted a two-run home run over the wall in center field to put Alexandria ahead 2-1 over Willmar (1-9, 0-4 Section 8AAA) in the bottom of the first inning.
"I think it's just it gets everybody going a special night like this," Kuhnau said. "It was the spark we needed. You can tell how much these fans are into the game. It's amazing to have this blessing to play in this town where there's so much fan support. It's just amazing. So we're blessed to have the fans and family that we do. We're just excited to keep it rolling."
This was Kuhnau's first home run of the season and Alexandria's second of the year. Junior Caleb Gimbel has the other Alexandria home run this season.
Alexandria built on its 2-1 lead with six runs in the second inning, two in the third, and four in the fourth.
"Hitting that first-pitch fastball was important for us," Kuhnau said. "We made some changes and went up to the plate with a different mindset, hitting the fastball every chance we got. Even though they struggled around the zone, I think we did a really good job of commanding the zone."
Matthew Hornstein earned the win on the mound for Alexandria. He struck out five batters in three innings, while Nick Levasseur struck out two in one inning pitched, and Max Hess struck out one in the final inning.
"We struggled a little bit around the zone, but they all competed, and that's what we asked for them," Munsch said. "They got us out of some tough situations even though it seemed like it was a struggle to get strikes. Our defense made many plays behind them, and it was exactly what we needed them to do. This game has three facets: hitting, defense, and pitching. As long as we can pick up the slack on two of the three, you'll be pretty decent in a baseball game."
Alexandria came into Thursday's tilt with momentum from Tuesday's game against Sauk Rapids-Rice (0-5, 0-3 Section 8AAA), even though the game wasn't completed due to inclement weather.
Alexandria led 4-1 in the top of the fifth inning of Tuesday's (May 10) game when the game got suspended and will be resumed later.
"We saw some really good things in our at-bats; we didn't strike out against them in four innings," Munsch said. "We put the ball in play, we came up with some key heads with runners in scoring positions, and a lot of stuff was just really well done."
Thursday's game was the first time Alexandria has played at home with a new scoreboard up (not yet in operation) in right field.
This is one of the many updates going in at the park and other ball fields in the area over the next couple of years.
"If you haven't had a chance to see a drive by the park, it's definitely going to be an icon here," Munsch said. "A lot of good things are going on with baseball and our facilities, and it's nice to see the fruition to all the work you put in. That's the first step."
It was also "Youth Night" on Thursday. A large raffle was also held on the night.
Alexandria is about to reach a critical juncture of the season.
Alexandria has eight remaining games (plus the finish of the Sauk Rapids-Rice game at a date that has yet to be announced), seven of which are against a Central Lakes Conference opponent or a Section 8AAA opponent.
The first test of the regular season's final two weeks comes on the road against the Detroit Lakes (10-3, 0-2 Section 8AAA) Lakers on the road on Monday, May 15, 2023, at 5 p.m.
Alexandria then hits the road to play another Section 8AAA contender on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, at Rocori (7-5, 4-0 Section 8AAA) and wrap up the week with a conference road doubleheader against Fergus Falls (1-6, 1-4 CLC) at 4 p.m. on Friday, May 19, 2023.
"We just need to keep our focus," Kuhnau said. "There's a lot of hours on the bus, but we have to stay locked in. We have to be in go mode every second we're off that bus."
To end the regular season, Alexandria is at home a lot, with Rocori coming to town on May 22, 2023, for a 3 p.m. game, while Princeton (7-2) comes to town the following day for a doubleheader at 4 p.m., and the team's current final tilt against Little Falls (7-3, 2-0 Section 8AAA) on May 25, 2023, at 5 p.m.
Alexandria, the defending section champion who placed third at the state tournament last season, ended the 2022 regular season strong, winning the final six regular season games to lock up the No. 2 seed (out of six) in the section playoffs.
Alexandria went 3-1 in the section playoffs last season, which included a one-run win over Detroit Lakes in the first round, and a win over Little Falls in the section title game.
Alexandria is looking for more of that magic this spring that it had in 2022.
"Every game from here on out is a big deal," Munsch said. "We want to be playing playoff games at home. So every game from this point forward will have implications for how that ends at the end of the year. So we tried to stress that to the kids. They seem to be buying into that and understand that hundreds of people here support Alexandria baseball. We can't say enough about the fans who support us."
Willmar - 1 0 0 0 2 - 3 3 5
Alexandria - 2 6 2 4 X - 14 8 0
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Tyler Kludt - 1-2, R, RBI, BB; Gage Castle - 1-3, R; Caleb Gimbel - 1-2, R, RBI, 2 BB; Jordan Kuhnau - 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI; Jaxon Schoenrock - 2-3, 3B, 2 RBI; Augie Gulbranson - 1-3, 2 R; Carter Simonson - 0-1, 2 R, BB; Spencer Schmidt - 1-1, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB
ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - Matthew Hornstein - W - 3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 6 BB, 5 SO; Nick Levassuer - 1 IP, 0 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO; Max Hess - 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO