Softball: Alexandria makes clutch plays late in playoff win over Willmar

The game was close throughout, but Alexandria made the clutch plays needed to start the playoffs 1-0.

Ava Klimek and Aubrie Porter-DSC_3734.JPG
Alexandria's Ava Klimek (left) taps gloves with Aubrie Porter (right) after a good defensive play in Alexandria's 4-3 win in the Section 8AAA playoffs over Willmar on May 23, 2023.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA - The Alexandria softball team found itself in a tricky situation in Tuesday's Section 8AAA playoff game against Willmar.

Alexandria harbored a 4-2 lead heading to the top of the seventh inning, but Willmar cut into Alexandria's lead on a wild pitch and had a runner on first and second base with one out.

But when it mattered most, Alexandria made a clutch defensive to seal the win as senior third baseman Aubrie Porter caught a line drive and threw the ball to second base for a 5-4 double play to seal the win for fourth-seeded Alexandria.

"She's been rock solid for us all year at third base," Alexandria head coach Brittney Bruzek said. "She's been our defensive power. It was great to have the ball land in her hands. She's calm and able to see the field and know what to do with it. So it was exciting. I'm happy that she was the one that got the touch."

This was one of the many defensive plays Alexandria (5-16) made down the stretch to win its first game of the postseason over Willmar (1-18).


"It's all about our mentality," Porter said. "I think we've gotten in our heads at times after making a couple of errors, but we've worked on that mental piece. I think we all came in here mentally ready for it. We were okay with making errors but then flipping the page. I think for me, it was just one ball at a time, one play at a time."

Junior Tiahna Goeke also made some big plays defensively for the Cardinals of Alexandria throughout the night.

Tiahna Goeke-DSC_3527.JPG
Alexandria junior Tiahna Goeke tracks down a fly ball in left field and catches for an out in Alexandria's 4-3 win against Willmar to open up the Section 8AAA playoffs on May 23, 2023. Goeke made some big plays in the game.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The left fielder snagged a couple of nice catches to prevent some Willmar runs from scoring, and she also had two hits at the plate.

"I say to I think almost everyone I meet that she's one of my favorite kids that I am blessed to be able to coach," Bruzek said. "From last year to this year, she has worked her tail off. She has a great sense of composure out there. She just does all the little things right and doesn't miss much. At the plate, she has a calm demeanor to her. I take my hat off to her because she's a character kid, not only on the field but off the field. I'm excited about what she's doing."

Willmar, who is the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, had the initial edge on Alexandria on Tuesday early with a run in the top of the second, but Alexandria swung things back in their favor as Alexandria scored on an RBI sacrifice fly by junior Peyton Goetsch and an RBI single by senior Kinzie Johnson in the bottom of the third to take a 2-1 lead.

Willmar answered with a run of its own in the top of the fourth to knot the game up at two apiece.

But Alexandria scored the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the fourth inning as freshman Ava Klimek and senior Emma Walters came around to score on a pair of errors.

Walters and Goeke both had two hits in the win.


Ava Klimek and Emma Walters-DSC_3673.JPG
Alexandria's Ava Klimek (9) and Emma Walters (10) celebrate after scoring the go-ahead runs for Alexandria in a 4-3 Section 8AAA playoff win over Willmar on May 23, 2023.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Freshman Addy Johnson was rock solid throughout the night as she pitched a complete game in the circle and got out of some tough situations.

"I could definitely see the nerves, but being a freshman pitching in a big section game, she did well," Bruzek said. "That last time I came out, she goes, 'What do you not want me to throw? What do you want me to throw?' And I said, 'Kiddo, you just got to do what you feel and what's working for you because what I might want to call, he (the umpire) might not be calling.' She did a good job with composure, and I think having this one win under her belt and getting that first section playoff game out of the way with a W, I think she'll be a lot more settled in."

Alexandria met Willmar at the start of the regular season on April 13, 2023, and split a doubleheader.

"Starting our season with Willmar, we were kind of a new team; and we have a young team that's growing up," Goeke said. "With the confidence going into this game, we knew that we had the ability to beat Willmar. And even though at the beginning of the season we didn't beat them in (game two of the doubleheader), we had the confidence coming in."

Kinzie Johnson-DSC_3523.JPG
Alexandria senior Kinzie Johnson gets ready for an at-bat during the team's 4-3 win over Willmar to open up the Section 8AAA playoffs on May 23, 2023.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Alexandria now turns its attention to the top-seeded Rocori Spartans (11-9). Rocori is the defending Section 8AAA champions from last season and had a bye to begin the playoffs this spring.

Rocori beat Alexandria in the section semifinals last year, 13-2.

In their regular season, Alexandria gave Rocori a tough battle in a doubleheader as Rocori won game one 6-2 and 12-7 on April 25, 2023, in Alexandria.

"Rocori is a tough opponent, but we played well against them twice," Bruzek said. "We got up on them but lost in the sixth and seventh inning. We have to string hits together and not leave runners on base. On the defensive side, they're a hitting team, so we can't just expect them to not hit the ball. We can't give them any free passes. We have to make them earn their way on. That'll be a big thing."


Alexandria plays Rocori in Cold Spring at 4 p.m. on Thursday. The loser plays the No. 6 seed in Detroit Lakes (3-17) in an elimination game, while the winner plays either the No. 2 seed Sauk Rapids-Rice (8-12) or the No. 3 seed Little Falls (5-15) in the section semifinals on May 30, 2023, at 5 p.m. at the high seed.

"I think this win over Willmar is big for our confidence," Goeke said. "I think with that confidence, we can put up a fight against Rocori and maybe surprise them."

Willmar - 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 - 3

Alexandria - 0 0 2 2 0 0 X - 4

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
What To Read Next
Get Local