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Softball: Cardinals aren't satisfied with run production in 9-1 loss to Bemidji

Early offense gives Bemidji a 9-1 win over Alexandria.

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Bemidji first baseman Maddie Potratz catches a line drive and tags out Alexandria's Jordan O'Kane as she tries to dive back to first base during the third inning of a game on May 17, 2022. Bemidji led 8-1 at that point and went on to win 9-1.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA - The Bemidji Lumberjacks kept the Alexandria Cardinals’ bats in check on Tuesday as they limited the Cardinals to just one run in a 9-1 win.

“At the end of the day, we have to control our hitting in order to create runs and runs win you the ballgame,” Alexandria head coach Britt Bruzek said. “Whether it’s in the first inning, second inning or any inning, we just have to find a way to fight back.”

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Alexandria senior Erika Wentworth tips a ball foul in a game against Bemidji on May 17, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The Cardinals' (6-12) lone run of the game came in the bottom of the first inning when senior Jordan O’Kane ran home from second base after Brookelyn Stender drove the ball to the right side of the infield and got into a rundown between first and second.

O’Kane reached base three times in Tuesday’s loss and led the team in hits with two. Alexandria as a team had four hits. Senior Maddie Buboltz and junior Kinzie Johnson had one hit each for Alexandria.

Bemidji (7-8) pitcher Mariah Graves and the defense behind her shut down the Alexandria offense. Graves, who just committed to play collegiately for Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, pitched a complete game on Tuesday. She earned four strikeouts, walked two batters and limited Alexandria to two hits after the first inning.

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“We had some pretty good hits,” O’Kane said. “We were just hitting it right to them. We will need to work on it in practice a little bit more.”

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Alexandria senior Aubrie Porter watches as her groundball goes into foul territory. Alexandria was held to just four hits in a 9-1 loss to Bemidji on May 17, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

To generate more runs, Johnson said a big part of that is being good at directional hitting.

“I think the biggest thing is just hitting gap shots, whether it's right up the middle, in the five-six hole, as well as different holes in the outfield,” Johnson said. “We also need to hit more line drives as opposed to hitting fly balls.”

Bemidji was up early thanks to some long shots.

Lexi Tatro launched a three-run home run over the fence in center field in the top of the first inning with no outs to put Bemidji up 3-0. Two at-bats later, Isabelle Neadeau launched a home run of her own, this one being a two-run home run.

“Bemidji is a pretty strong opponent,” O’Kane said. “They got the bat on the ball and they were hitting it places that were hard to defend.”

Bemidji scored three runs in the third and one in the fourth to get to nine runs.

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Alexandria senior Brooklyn Stender throws the ball from her shortstop position to first base to get an out in a game against Bemidji on May 17, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Even with the loss, Bruzek says she’s noticed some small victories paying off and she’s seen them throughout the season.

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“There's a lot of the little victories that are starting to show,” Bruzek said. “The little things might not win us those big games right now, but I'm seeing it in the younger athletes, which is huge as we continue forward.”

Bruzek, who is in her first season as the Cardinals head coach, had her first senior night Tuesday as the Cardinals head coach.

The Cardinals have eight seniors in the program, O’Kane, Stender, Madi Heid, Buboltz, Emma Jantzen, Maggie Anderson, Erika Wentworth and Olivia Strand.

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Alexandria senior Madi Heid throwing a pitch in a game against Bemidji on May 17, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

“Coming in as a new coach, they've been very welcoming to me and have been helping out on a lot of things to just kind of give backgrounds on how they've done things in the past or what they're good at and things like that,” Bruzek said. “They've been very insightful in navigating this first year as a new coach.”

With it being senior night, Maggie Anderson, who has played on JV all season, was pulled up to varsity and got the start for the Cardinals in the circle. Anderson pitched the first couple of at-bats in the game, then sophomore Tatum Ketelsen, and eventually, Heid came in and pitched in relief for the Cardinals.

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Alexandria senior Maggie Anderson got called up from the JV roster and got the start at pitcher on senior night against Bemidji on May 17, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

O’Kane pitched the final five innings for the Cardinals. She had two strikeouts, allowed one run, two hits and walked four batters.

“We just went in there with the mentality of we just need to stop their runs and then try and get back on ball as well and try to produce some offense,” O’Kane said about the team’s approach after the third inning. “Our defense after that first inning was pretty solid.”

The Cardinals have two more games in the regular season, a doubleheader at rival Sartell-St. Stephen on Wednesday, before the Section 8-3A playoffs begin on May 24.

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“Right now, I just want them to have fun,” Bruzek said. “Stay on your toes, just kind of go out there and don't hold back. It's more of that mindset versus trying to find growth in certain areas. At the end of the day, this game is just about foul lines that go 200 feet left, 200 feet right and in 60 feet, you turn left.”

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Alexandria head coach Britt Bruzek talks with her team following a inning in a game against Bemidji on May 17, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

Throughout the season, Bruzek said she’s seen the team grow from a mental standpoint.

“I would say the growth has happened more mentally, a little bit physically, but more in the mental area is where I'm seeing it,” Bruzek said. “The defense is starting to look sharper; they're starting to execute first and thirds and our base running has improved immensely. That's kind of how we won our game against Willmar. We've challenged a lot of teams. Our outfield is locking in and our middles are doing a good job communicating."

Game one of Alexandria’s doubleheader against Sartell-St. Stephen starts at 4 p.m.

Bemidji - 5 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 - 9 7 1

Alexandria - 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 1 4 2

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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