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Softball: Alexandria trying to learn as season progresses

The Cardinals showed some good things offensively in game two of a doubleheader against St. Cloud on Tuesday night, but two big innings for the Crush helped St. Cloud get out with a sweep.

Jordan O'Kane
Alexandria senior Jordan O'Kane lets out a scream as she crosses home plate after scoring a run in the very first at-bat of game two during Tuesday's doubleheader against the St. Cloud Crush on May 3, 2022. O'Kane had a hard-hit triple in the at-bat and then came in to score on a St. Cloud error.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Alexandria softball team was coming off a 12-0 loss in game one against the St. Cloud Crush on Tuesday night and needed a jolt of energy in game two.

Senior Jordan O’Kane stepped into the batter’s box to lead off the nightcap and immediately lined a ball to the fence. O’Kane hustled into third with a leadoff triple, noticed a throwing error on St. Cloud and rushed home as she let out a scream as she crossed home plate with the opening run.

The Cardinals saw some good moments like that from their offense in game two. Junior Kinzie Johnson had a second-inning home run and a two-run single in the fifth. Freshman Lauren Hornstein drove in two with a single in the third and added a double in her last at-bat.

Those are some of the positives Alexandria will take away from a night when St. Cloud was too much to handle in a sweep after the Crush ran away in the middle innings with a 17-8 win in game two.

Kinzie Johnson
Alexandria junior Kinzie Johnson jumps on home plate after her solo home run in the second inning of game two against St. Cloud on May 3, 2022 tied the game at 2-2. St. Cloud went on to win the game in a high-scoring final of 17-8.

“That’s kind of been our motto is finding what’s working and stringing hits along,” Alexandria head coach Brittney Bruzek said. “It’s nice to see Kinzie Johnson’s big bat come through. It’s nice to have a leadoff from your senior be able to poke one through. It’s great to see a freshman get in the fourth spot and come up with two big hits. It’s something we need to feed off of. Now we need to get it consistent. A good team finds a way to hit every single inning, finds a way to get a runner on, finds a way to score a run, and that’s just something we’ll continue to grow and build off of.”

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The Cardinals (1-7) used a four-run inning in the top of the third to take a 6-4 lead. O’Kane started it with a single before sophomore Peyton Goetsch singled and senior Brookelyn Stender walked to load the bases. Hornstein and senior Madi Heid both delivered run-scoring singles to send Alexandria into the bottom of the third with a two-run lead.

That’s when St. Cloud (4-4) blew the game open. The Crush scored seven runs in their half of the inning, and then added six more in the bottom of the fourth.

Lauren Hornstein
Alexandria freshman Lauren Hornstein cracks a smile at first base after her two-run single in the third inning against St. Cloud on May 3, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

Hornstein is a freshman getting her first taste of varsity softball from the pitching circle. She started in game two and went 2 2/3 innings before O’Kane came on in relief.

Tuesday’s offensive outburst for St. Cloud was a mixture of Crush hits, but also a few miscues in the field as the Cardinals try to learn from the lessons they can take from the two losses.

“I had this talk with my pitching staff that we might have to utilize three, four pitchers a game sometimes. Change things up, mix things up,” Bruzek said. “Understand that we don’t have to throw the hardest, but we have to be smart on how we throw, keeping the ball low and slow. In three, four weeks, we’re not going to get faster, but if we can utilize slow, slow and slower and keeping things down and off the plate, maybe those hitters are going to swing and miss, and then it’s up to our defense to have our backs.”

Bruzek said her primary message to her team after Tuesday was centered on the importance of competing on every play.

“You’re competing for every pitch, every ground ball, every fly ball, every strike and base,” Bruzek said. “You’re always competing, and if your teammate behind you didn’t get the job done, just stay on your own two feet. You have to control what you can control. Then once you’re able to control your pieces of the game, start helping out your teammates. At the end of the day, it’s always having your teammates back no matter what.”

The Cardinals have a chance to bounce back on Thursday as they face fellow Section 8-3A and Central Lakes Conference foe Sauk Rapids-Rice on the road in a doubleheader that starts at 4:30 p.m. Alexandria will host a home tournament on Saturday starting at 10 a.m.

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“These kids are already tough on themselves,” Bruzek said. “They already know they made a mistake. It’s not on us as a coaching staff to tell them what they did wrong. We need to tell them what they did right and how to fix things and adjust. It’s something I come across as really aggressive or really loud on, but it’s me deep down inside wanting them to do the best they can. I only want the best for them, and the more they know, the more they learn, the better they’ll be down the road.”

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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