The Alexandria softball team waited long enough to play in a real game. On Thursday evening, the Cardinals came to play, and they made sure to bring their bats.

In a Central Lakes Conference doubleheader against Willmar, Alexandria came away with a sweep by putting up 37 runs between the two mercy-rule wins.

"We knew we could put the bat on the ball," Alexandria head coach Randy Albers said. "We're not going to score this many runs every time. For as long as I've been coaching, it seems like we always open with a team like Brainerd or another powerhouse. It's tough to start that way. Willmar is a solid team. Obviously, the scores probably don't show what it would be normally."

Aubrie Porter slides into home plate on a Maddie Buboltz RBI single int he first inning of Alexandria's 19-2 win over Willmar in the second game of a doubleheader on Apr. 15, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Aubrie Porter slides into home plate on a Maddie Buboltz RBI single int he first inning of Alexandria's 19-2 win over Willmar in the second game of a doubleheader on Apr. 15, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Alexandria completed the sweep with a 19-2 game-two win in four innings. Senior Emily Harris sparked the offensive breakthrough in the third at-bat of the game when she belted a three-run home run over the left-centerfield fence. The long ball was the first career home run for Harris

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"It felt really good," Harris said. "I didn't even know it went over the fence. When I was running around the bases, I asked the second baseman if it went over. But to get back to the dugout with all of the girls congratulating me felt really good."

Harris' big swing was the start of an eight-run inning for Alexandria. Maddie Buboltz drove in two more with a sharp single to center field. She later scored on a wild pitch.

In the third inning, Alexandria got some more help from the long ball. Kinzie Johnson hit her first career home run to make it 13-0.

"Home runs are always an exciting part of the game," Albers said. "Emily Harris and Kinzie hit their first varsity home runs. We don't have a ton of power in the lineup, but we expect a little bit of power out of those two players."

For as lethal as Alexandria's bats were in game two, the pitching performance was just as stellar. Josie Steidl didn't allow an earned run in any of the four innings she pitched.

"The thing about Josie is you always know what you're going to get," Albers said. "She's going to throw strikes and be around the plate. She's sneaky quick and spins the ball. That's what's got her here. She's not overpowering, but her location is as good as we've ever had."

Josie Steidl pitches one of her three shutout innings in Alexandria's 19-2 win over Willmar in the second game of a doubleheader on Apr. 15, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Josie Steidl pitches one of her three shutout innings in Alexandria's 19-2 win over Willmar in the second game of a doubleheader on Apr. 15, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Harris started the first game and allowed just two earned runs in Alexandria's 18-8 win. Not only is she helping carry the load as one of the only experienced varsity players, but she's also embracing her new leadership role in guiding younger pitchers taking the rubber at the varsity level for the first time.

"We throw a lot at practice," Harris said. "I've been helping them with throwing rises, drops and screwballs. We have a bunch of different pitches we need to throw to get outs."

Harris played a lot of innings during her sophomore season in 2019, but the same can't be said for most of the Cardinals. She was impressed by the new faces on the field in handling the nerves of playing varsity softball for the first time.

"They played really well," Harris said. "We had (Aubrie) Porter come out and play shortstop for the first time ever as a freshman. Emma Walters had a good hit in her first at-bat. We've had some really good team bonding activities to get closer this year. We are just playing well as a team, and it helps to have good senior leaders."

Chloe Loch reaches for a short pop-up down the third-base line in the second inning of Alexandria's 19-2 win over Willmar in the second game of a doubleheader on Apr. 15, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Chloe Loch reaches for a short pop-up down the third-base line in the second inning of Alexandria's 19-2 win over Willmar in the second game of a doubleheader on Apr. 15, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

The concern for Alexandria going forward is the defensive play. Between the two games, Alexandria committed 11 errors. Just two of the 10 runs given up were earned.

"We had eight errors in the first game, and that can't happen," Albers said.

As the afternoon rolled on, Alexandria settled in defensively.

"These girls are inexperienced, so they're going to be tight, and it is cold outside," Albers said. "I think we'll be fine in the end. We did get better defensively, and it was good to see who responded to those factors. Our pitching was good today. Teams are going to put the ball in play against us, so we need to defend well. We don't have a choice."

Wins aside, both teams were able to celebrate being back on the field after a two-year layoff.

"It was amazing," Harris said. "We haven't played together in so long. I got to play in some summer and fall leagues, but we haven't been out here with all the girls in what felt like forever. It's just amazing to be back, and we're having a lot of fun."

Emily Harris (middle) and Maci Tilleskjor walk back to the dugout after Harris' three-run home run in the first inning of Alexandria's 19-2 win over Willmar in the second game of a doubleheader on Apr. 15, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Emily Harris (middle) and Maci Tilleskjor walk back to the dugout after Harris' three-run home run in the first inning of Alexandria's 19-2 win over Willmar in the second game of a doubleheader on Apr. 15, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

GAME TWO

ALEXANDRIA 814 6XX X - 19

WILLMAR 002 0XX X - 2

ALEXANDRIA HITTING- Maci Tilleskjor 3-3, 3R, BB; Emma Jantzen 0-1; Brooklyn Stender 1-3, 2R, 2RBI, 2BB; Peyton Goetsch 0-1, R; Emily Harris 1-2, 4RBI, 2R, HR, BB; Madi Heid 1-1, RBI; Emma Magaard 1-4, 3R, 2RBI; Kinzie Johnson 2-2, 2R, HR, 2RBI, BB; Maddie Magnuson 0-0, BB, R; Aubrie Porter 1-3, 3R, RBI; Maddie Buboltz 1-4, R; Paige Habberstad 0-4, R; Chloe Loch 1-2, BB; ALEXANDRIA PITCHING- Josie Steidl 4IP, 2H, 2R, 0ER, 3K, BB;

GAME ONE

WILLMAR 040 04X X - 8

ALEXANDRIA 181 08X X - 18

ALEXANDRIA HITTING- Harris 1-3, R, 2RBI, BB; Stender- 3-4, 2R, RBI, BB; Magaard 3-5, 2R, RBI; Johnson- 2-4, R, 3RBI; Heid 0-3, R, BB; Buboltz 2-3, 3R, 2RBI, BB; Magnuson 0-4, 2R, RBI; Steidl 2-3, R, 3RBI; Loch 1-3, 2R, BB; PITCHING- Harris 5IP, 9H, 8R, 2ER, 3K,BB