Baseball: Big third inning leads the St. Cloud Crush to victory as Alexandria's comeback falls short
Jake Mendel's three-run home run in the third inning gives St. Cloud Crush a 5-3 win over Alexandria.
ALEXANDRIA - With the game knotted at 1 apiece in the top of the third inning, St. Cloud Crush’s Jaden Mendel launched a three-run home run to left-center field. That home run blast and a run off an error late in the inning created the momentum and the margin it needed to beat Alexandria on Saturday, 5-3.
“Anytime you hit a home run, it's a big deal and obviously, on a day like today, the ball is going to carry and the ball was hit a long way,” Alexandria head coach Jake Munsch said after the game.
The Cardinals (1-2, 1-2 Central Lakes Conference) gave themselves a chance on multiple occasions in the later innings. They scored a run in the bottom of the fourth, had bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning with no outs and had the potential game-tying run at the plate in the final at-bat of the game.
But that offensive output wasn’t enough to come back from the four-run deficit that it had.
“We definitely left some runs out there,” Munsch said. “We did a good job of getting on base; we just couldn’t capitalize in key situations. We made a couple of mistakes on the base pads, which obviously led to us getting out to not scoring those runs. But those are things that we can work on in practice and improve on.”
The Cardinals were held to just one run when they had bases loaded, as Augie Gulbranson hit into a fielder's choice which scored a run. Second baseman Brock Lerfald then hit a pop fly to right field, which was caught for an out. Jaxon Schoenrock tagged up on that pop fly and advanced to third base while right fielder Grady Anderson, who ran for Gulbranson, remained on first base. The inning ended with Anderson being thrown out while trying to steal second base.
In the final half-inning of the game, designated hitter Devin Cimbura hit a single to left field to bring the game-tying run to the plate with two outs.
St. Cloud Crush’s Hank Bulson then snagged a ground ball hit by Alexandria’s Nick Hammerback and threw it to first base for the game's final out.
“I think kids did a really good job of battling throughout the game,” Munsch said. “We were one swing of the bat away from tying it. Their pitcher did a really good job. He came on the mound and threw strikes. He’s tough.”
Outside of the home run that St. Cloud hit, Alexandria’s offense was arguably more productive as it had seven hits while St. Cloud had three.
But St. Cloud got the outs late in the game that it needed to have to win its first game of the season (1-1 this season, 1-1 CLC).
“We need to be more patient; we were too jumpy at the plate,” Alexandria shortstop JD Hennen said. “We're not waiting for those slow pitches; we're just jumping on the ball, either [making it] rollover, [we’re] striking out swinging and swinging at balls in the dirt. We just got to get our pitch, find that pitch and drive.”
The Cardinals' defense was stout and kept them in the game from the fourth inning on. The pitching effort was led by Schoenrock, who threw in the final four innings, allowing no runs or hits while striking out eight batters.
“I was trusting the coaches, the pitch calls, in my pitches and the guys behind me and I was successful,” Schoenrock said.
He did allow three walks in his outing but didn’t let those turn into runs.
“Jackson came in and pitched really, really well for his first varsity experience,” Munsch said.
Schoenrock was one of two Cardinals, along with left fielder Caleb Runge, to have two hits in Saturday’s game. He had knocked in the Cardinals' first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning on a line-drive single to left field.
In addition to Schoenrock’s performance, Munsch said he thought Will Suchy had a good start on the mound.
“Will came in and gave us a solid start,” Munsch said. “One pitch went over the fence, we can’t do anything about that.”
Suchy pitched three innings, allowing four earned runs, three hits and he struck out four batters.
Elian Mezquita got the win for the Crush on the mound as he struck out four batters, allowed three hits and two runs in four innings pitched. Truman Toenjes finished the game on the mound for the Crush and struck out four batters, allowed four hits and one run in three innings pitched.
Defensively, the Cardinals committed three errors while the Crush committed one.
Saturday’s contest at Knute Nelson Memorial Park was supposed to be played earlier in the month on April 14, but the poor conditions caused by inclement weather caused the game to be postponed.
But now, Munsch said the field conditions weren’t bad.
“The field conditions were fine,” Munsch said. “We worked hard in the morning to get them ready to go. But as the game went on, and the day went on, the conditions actually improved.”
Alexandria next plays host to one of its rivals, Sartell-St. Stephen (0-2, 0-2 CLC), on Tuesday in a doubleheader that begins at 4 p.m.
“Anytime you play a doubleheader, they're tough both physically and mentally,” Munsch said. “The temperature is not going to be very warm, so obviously that's another aspect to it. And just like every other team in the CLC, Sartell is a good ballclub, so we expect a good game.”