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Resorters baseball: Stockert's late shot not enough for Black Sox

Alexandria's Blake Stockert spent the last four years at North Dakota State University pitching for the Bison, so his at-bats at the plate were few and far between.

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Alexandria's Blake Stockert heads to the dugout with his Black Sox teammates waiting to congratulate him after a three-run home run in the eighth inning against Sauk Centre on Sunday afternoon. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

Alexandria's Blake Stockert spent the last four years at North Dakota State University pitching for the Bison, so his at-bats at the plate were few and far between.

He hadn't hit a home run since his high school days with the Cardinals, but he connected with one on Sunday afternoon as the Alexandria Black Sox played Sauk Centre in Osakis, with Knute Nelson Ballpark not available.

"It was pretty cool," Stockert said. "I knew he was going to throw a first-pitch breaking ball, so I kind of sat back on it and let the bat work."

Stockert's home run to left-center field was a three-run shot after Michael Helgeson and Parker Bowden led off the eighth inning with singles. It still wasn't enough as Sauk Centre improved to 11-4 overall with a 7-5 win to complete the season sweep of the Black Sox.

Alexandria led after the first inning when Sam Helgeson led off with a double and scored on a ground out by Shawn Krueger. Michael Helgeson then singled in another run to make it 2-0.

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The Titans responded with seven unanswered runs. They left runners on base through the early innings before scoring twice in the fifth. The first run came when a close play at first was called safe after a diving stop at second by Brett Savelkoul. That would have been the final out of the inning, but Alexandria's Mitch Thompson walked in the tying run in the next at-bat.

Thompson labored through six innings as he allowed nine hits but gave way to Chris Curry in the seventh trailing just 3-2.

Sauk Centre got four more runs off of Curry in the eighth. The Titans loaded the bases before back-to-back ground outs to Krueger and S. Helgeson went home to cut down runners at the plate. Then with two outs, Sauk Centre used a single and a Black Sox error to score two before Luke Vanbeck made it a 7-2 game with a two-run single.

Alexandria struggled to drive runs in against Sauk Centre starter Shane Trattles in the middle innings. Trattles gave up the two first-inning runs and the three-run homer to Stockert, but settled in nicely in between to secure the win.

"He had a couple good pitches," S. Helgeson said of Trattles. "He threw three different pitches, so that kind of threw us off, but he was just a good pitcher all around."

Sam Helgeson had back-to-back doubles in his first two at-bats. Alexandria threatened in multiple innings, including late. The Black Sox had runners on second and third in the seventh when it was still a one-run game, but Trattles got Krueger swinging to end the threat. Needing two to tie it in the ninth, Thompson led off with a walk before Sauk Centre reliever Dylan Haskamp got a couple strikeouts around a fly out to center field to end it.

"We've lost two, three games (this summer)," S. Helgeson said. "We're doing pretty good. I think our struggle right now is when we have runners in scoring position, we sometimes don't capitalize on that. Once playoffs come around, we'll get there."

The Black Sox believe they could do some damage in the playoffs if they can get the majority of their guys to the ballpark. Alexandria's roster consists of many former Cardinals who saw some success at the high school level.

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"The potential is sky high," S. Helgeson said. "If we get everybody here, we have a dang good team. Even the guys we can round up when we don't have too many guys, we can still put together a good team. When we have our top guys out there, we're going to be tough to beat."

The Black Sox should have plenty of arms to lean on if they do get a full contingent there during playoffs. Krueger joined Curry and Thompson in pitching on Sunday, and Stockert gives Alexandria a potential dominant arm from the left side after he completed his senior year at NDSU with a 3.71 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 68 innings pitched this past spring.

Stockert has played in a handful of games with the Black Sox this summer, pitching twice and playing some outfield and designated hitter.

"It's always fun to come out and see all the brothers out here and just have a good time," Stockert said. "Sure, it's not as intense you could say, but you're still going to make the most of it and have a good time."

The regional tournament starts July 27 where the bottom eight seeds in the 12-team field face off in the opening round. The top four seeds earn a first-round bye before the tournament moves to Dent for the rest of the playoffs.

The Black Sox have seen their goal of making a state tournament come up just short in recent years. They hope it's a different story this summer with the playoffs just around the corner.

"If we keep moving on, the competition is going to get better and everybody is going to play at their 'A' game," Stockert said. "The deeper we go into this, everyone is going to want to turn it up a notch and push each other. The further we go, I think the better we'll get and play to our full potential."

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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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