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Baseball: Jaxon Schoenrock's blast, JD Hennen's dominance have Alexandria in the driver's seat

The Cardinals fell behind early for the second straight playoff game, but they rallied for a second straight win thanks to some sixth-inning heroics from Schoenrock and a 13-strikeout performance from senior JD Hennen.

Jaxon Schoenrock
Alexandria junior Jaxon Schoenrock lets out a scream as his teammates gather near home plate after Schoenrock's sixth-inning home run gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead over Sauk Rapids-Rice in the Section 8-3A playoffs on June 2, 2022. That proved to be the winning run as Alexandria beat the Storm to move on to the semifinal round through the winner's bracket.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA — Alexandria junior Jaxon Schoenrock smiled when asked on Thursday night how many home runs he has hit as a varsity baseball player. He also didn’t have to think about it long.

The answer was none before a Section 8-3A playoff game with Sauk Rapids-Rice (12-9). He has one now, and it propelled the Cardinals (17-5) to a dramatic 2-1 victory over the Storm that sends them into the next round in the driver’s seat of this section as the only team without a loss.

“The previous at-bat, I had a good at-bat and lined out to right,” Schoenrock said. “I came up in the next at-bat and just had the same approach, just kind of choke up and sit on his fastball. He threw pretty hard. It was 1-1. He threw me a low fastball. I guess I like those. I just kind of swung and went with it and it went out.”

Alex Harren
Sauk Rapids-Rice senior Alex Harren pitches against Alexandria during the Section 8-3A playoffs on June 2, 2022. Harren struck out nine and allowed just two runs, but it was not quite enough in a 2-1 loss to the Cardinals.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Sauk Rapids-Rice senior Alex Harren shut out Alexandria in a 5-0 win for the Storm on May 10. He was cruising again in the rematch as Sauk Rapids-Rice held a 1-0 lead through three innings after Jeff Solorz drove in the game’s first run with a ground-ball single in the third.

Alexandria senior second baseman Brock Lerfald finally got to Harren in the bottom of the fifth. Grady Anderson walked to start that inning, and Lerfald delivered a two-out, hard-hit single that tied the game at 1-1.

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That set the stage for Schoenrock in the sixth. He led off the inning and wasted no time as the lefty pulled a pitch over the right-center-field wall. Schoenrock shouted toward his teammates as he rounded second base as they burst out of the dugout to meet him at home plate.

Jaxon Schoenrock
Alexandria's Jaxon Schoenrock reaches up to haul in a catch in center field against Sauk Rapids-Rice in the Section 8-3A playoffs on June 2, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“It’s pretty sweet. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Schoenrock said. “I’m not a home run hitter. I think anybody can see that, but it was a big moment. I was just going with the team, getting them fired up.”

Sauk Rapids-Rice still had a chance to extend the game, but senior JD Hennen was not about to let that happen. Hennen had been dominant all game around that third-inning run allowed.

He struck out 13 and was most effective in the seventh when it mattered most. Hennen struck out the side in the final frame around a two-out single by Keegan Patterson.

“Jaxon has a heck of an at-bat there,” Hennen said. “Gives us the lead, and I’m like, ‘OK, I got to close this out. We got to win this game right now.’ That’s what we did.”

JD Hennen
Alexandria senior JD Hennen lets out a scream after striking out hits 13th batter of the game to end a 2-1 win over Sauk Rapids-Rice in a Section 8-3A playoff game on June 2, 2022. The win advances the Cardinals into a 2 p.m. game on Saturday at the MAC in St. Cloud.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Hennen and Harren showed why they are two of the top pitchers in the section. Harren struck out nine as he too went the distance.

Alexandria struggled to make solid contact early against him, but that started to change during the middle innings. In the fifth when Lerfald singled in a run, Alexandria also squared up two other pitches that went for outs on nice running catches by Storm outfielders Keegan Patterson and Andrew Harren.

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“Just really sit fastball,” Schoenrock said of eventually breaking through against Harren. “He mainly throws fastball, so that was our approach. If he gives you a first-pitch strike, swing at it.”

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Hennen never got into trouble late in the game. He allowed five hits, but just one of those came after the third inning.

“Early on, it was lots of fastballs. That’s my best pitch,” Hennen said. “That 2-seam fastball that runs into a hitter. Then later on I got my curveball going, some changeups too.”

Hennen piled up strikeouts using all three of his pitches. He was confident that the offensive would eventually come if he could keep the Storm from doing any more damage.

“I trust my guys for sure,” Hennen said. “We’ve seen (Harren) multiple times. We finally got going at the end there. I just knew I had to go up there and throw strikes and give my team a chance to win, get a lot of soft contact and let my defense make the plays.”

Alexandria has now won six games this season that have been decided by one run. Two of those have been in the playoffs, and both came after the Cardinals fell behind early.

Detroit Lakes jumped on them 3-0 after the first inning on Tuesday before Alexandria won 6-5 when pinch-runner Spencer Schmidt scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh.

“We’re just gritty. We got a lot of energy,” Hennen said. “No matter what happens, we always believe in ourselves. We always believe we can get that big hit. More times than not, we have.”

The Cardinals are now one of five teams left in the section field but the only one without a loss. Willmar and Sauk Rapids-Rice, and Rocori and Little Falls will play elimination games at 11 a.m. at the MAC in St. Cloud on Saturday.

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Alexandria will face one of the winners at 2 p.m. that same day at the MAC. Regardless of that outcome, the Cardinals have guaranteed themselves a game next Wednesday as well.

SAUK RAPIDS-RICE     001 000 0 - 1 5 2

ALEXANDRIA               000 011 X - 2 5 1

ALEXANDRIA PITCHING - JD Hennen - W, 7IP, 5H, 1R, 1ER, 2BB, 13SO; SAUK RAPIDS-RICE PITCHING - Alex Harren - L, 6IP, 5H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 9SO

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Reed Reisdorf - 1-3; Brock Lerfald - 1-3, RBI; Caleb Runge - 0-2; Lake Hagen - 0-3; Jaxon Schoenrock - 1-3, HR, 1 run, RBI; Hennen - 0-2, BB; Nate Hammerback - 1-3, 2B; Grady Anderson - 0-2, BB, 1 run; Devin Cimbura - 1-3, 2B

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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