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Softball: Alexandria's season ends at the hands of Rocori and Little Falls; Bruzek proud of her team's grit

Alexandria finishes the 2022 season with a 8-16 record.

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From left to right, Kinzie Johnson, Aubrie Porter, Brookelyn Stender, Madi Heid and Emma Walters huddle just before the start of a playoff game against Little Falls on May 31, 2022. Little Falls knocked Alexandria out of the playoffs by winning 8-3.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press
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COLD SPRING - With two wins a week ago to begin the Section 8AAA playoffs, the Alexandria softball team had the chance to make it to Thursday’s section championship. But the Rocori Spartans and the Little Falls Flyers had other plans as they both defeated Alexandria on Tuesday and advanced to the section championship game.

Rocori (13-8), the top-seed in the section, put up a flurry of runs in the semifinal game, defeating Alexandria (8-16), the No. 3 seed, 13-2 in five innings.

“They can flat out hit the ball,” Alexandria head coach Britt Bruzek said about Rocori. “They do the little things right. They capitalize when they need to as hitters.”

Rocori limited Alexandria to three hits, one of which was an RBI double in the fourth by junior Aubrie Porter.

“They have two very strong pitchers and we saw one, Shelby [Prom],” Bruzek said. “They have a strong pitching circle and a strong army on the dish.”

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Prom pitched a complete game and had four strikeouts. The Cardinals’ two other hits came from junior Peyton Goetsch and one from senior Jordan O’Kane.

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Alexandria senior Jordan O'Kane steps into the batters box in a playoff game against Rocori on May 31, 2022. Rocori defeated Alexandria 8-3.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Madison Terres had two hits for the Spartans, including a two-run home run in the second inning, which pushed the Spartans' lead to 6-0.

The elimination game was a rematch of a playoff game on May 26, as the two-seed Little Falls (12-11) faced Alexandria. Alexandria defeated Little Falls 11-6 on May 26 to put Little Falls in pair of elimination games that it won.

Little Falls broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth by scoring six runs against the Cardinals.

“They came out with energy,” Bruzek said about Little Falls.

And while the Cardinals did score three runs in the sixth to keep the game alive, it wasn’t enough as the Flyers held on to win 8-3.

The Cardinals had seven hits in the game, including one apiece by O’Kane, Porter and Goetsch, as well as senior Brookelyn Stender rounding all the bases on a 3-RBI triple with an error. Senior Maddie Buboltz, junior Emma Walters and senior Madi Heid also had a hit.

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Alexandria's Emma Walters rushes towards a Little Falls bunt attempt in a playoff elimination game on May 31, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Heid started both games in the circle and threw a combined 4.1 innings before O’Kane came on in relief in both games and pitched a combined 4.2 innings.

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With the losses, Bruzek’s first season at the helm of the program is now in the books.

“I saw a lot of little victories along the way and I saw a lot of growth,” Bruzek said. “There was a lot of individual leadership that evolved and the chemistry was tighter as we brought a lot of players up.”

Bruzek is most proud of the way the team competed throughout the season.

“I saw fight,” Bruzek said. “We saw athletes that just showed up, gritted, put their head down and just did the job.”

Bruzek said that she saw the team learn that adversity and losing is okay and that, “You can become stronger from it and become better from it not just as an athlete, but as a person.”

The Cardinals graduate eight seniors this spring, O’Kane, Stender, Heid, Buboltz, Emma Jantzen, Maggie Anderson, Erika Wentworth and Olivia Strand.

“There's going to be some big shoes (to fill),” Bruzek said. “It breaks my heart to see them cry because they know that their season's over, but they're phenomenal young women that are going to do amazing things in their life.”

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Alexandria head coach Britt Bruzek (left) talks to Peyton Goetsch (center) and Madi Heid (right) before their at bats in a playoff elimination game against Little Falls on May 31, 2022. Following the loss to Little Falls, Alexandria finished the season with a 8-16 record.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Stender said the program is like a family and that the younger players have bought into that this season.

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“I love playing softball and this team is like a family to me,” Stender said. “It was a struggle at first for us to get bats going, our defense going and stuff like that. So once we started playing for each other, it was better. I've gotten the opportunity to play varsity at every level. So I've grown every year and it's cool to see the younger kids come in and see how they can grow and how they're going to do in the future.”

Stender said she’s seen the younger player's confidence grow throughout the season.

“At the beginning of the year, they were a little shaky and not used to playing up (at varsity),” Stender said. So to see that they've grown through that and aren't timid and are playing confidently in knowing what they're going to do is cool.”

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Alexandria senior second baseman Brookelyn Stender covers first base and records an out after a bunt attempt by a Little Falls player in a playoff game on May 31, 2022. Little Falls eliminated Alexandria with a 8-3 win.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

One of the Cardinals’ young athletes, freshman Lauren Hornstein, played a significant amount of time in Alexandria’s game against Rocori. Hornstein pitched the final two innings of the game for the Cardinals.

Hornstein is one underclassman whom Bruzek was specifically impressed with this season.

“I love the fact that she's able to be in the circle as a freshman and show out,” Bruzek said. “I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next year.”

Going forward, pitching is one of the areas where Bruzek wants to see the biggest development.

“Our number one goal is to get stronger in the circle and [throw] faster in the circle,” Bruzek said about offseason goals.

She is also hoping to see positive results from players gaining experience.

“Experience happens with the more games that are played and the pressure situations that come on,” Bruzek said. “You can't just show up with experience. Pitching is going to be our number one thing, then the experience pieces, getting calm and collected and building that chemistry before those big games hit.”

Game One - 

Alexandria - 0 0 1 1 0 - 2 3 1

Rocori - 3 3 4 3 X - 13 6 1

Game Two -

Alexandria - 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 - 3 7 6

Little Falls- 0 1 1 0 6 0 X - 8 8 1

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