A big offensive inning from Sartell cost the Alexandria softball team a chance to host the Section 8AAA softball tournament on May 21. Just 20 days later, another one put the Sabres in the driver’s seat.

A seven-run third inning was all the offense Sartell (18-2) needed in its 10-5 win over the Cardinals (15-7) on Tuesday afternoon. Alexandria pitcher Josie Steidl quickly recorded the first two outs of the inning before the long two-out rally.

“You can’t slow them down when they get going like that,” Alexandria head coach Randy Albers said. “In the two games we lost to them it’s been the same scenario. They capitalize on mistakes because they put the ball in play and they hit the ball hard. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make, and that’s the thing we’ve been talking about. Crooked numbers in an inning can’t happen, and it happened today.”

Chloe Loch fouls off a high pitch in her first at-bat of Alexandria's 10-5 loss to Sartell on June 8, 2021. The Cardinals will play Bemidji on Thursday for a chance to go to the Section 8AAA final. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Chloe Loch fouls off a high pitch in her first at-bat of Alexandria's 10-5 loss to Sartell on June 8, 2021. The Cardinals will play Bemidji on Thursday for a chance to go to the Section 8AAA final. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Sartell loaded the bases on a pair of walks and a single before Kamille Dougherty drove a bases-clearing double over the head of Alexandria center fielder Maddie Buboltz. The Sabres would tally three RBI singles and a run on an error before the inning ended.

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“When Sartell gets that momentum going it really gets going,” Alexandria sophomore Kinzie Johnson said. “They eventually add up, and it’ll beat you. When any team gets momentum they’re hard to stop.”

In the second half of Alexandria’s doubleheader on May 21, the Sabres put together a six-run sixth inning to earn a split in the regular-season series. The Cardinals needed to sweep the doubleheader to earn a chance at getting the top seed in the section.

Josie Steidl delivers a pitch home in Alexandria's 10-5 loss to Sartell on June 8, 2021. Steidl pitched 2.2 innings and struck out four batters. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Josie Steidl delivers a pitch home in Alexandria's 10-5 loss to Sartell on June 8, 2021. Steidl pitched 2.2 innings and struck out four batters. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

After Sartell’s seven-run outbreak, the Cardinals battled back in the top of the fourth with a two-out rally of their own. Senior Emily Harris drew a nine-pitch walk to load the bases– setting up Johnson’s clutch three-RBI double.

“I think that showed we are capable of responding after a bad inning,” Johnson said. “We have that ability to make a comeback. When you put up runs like that after a bad inning it lets the other team know you can put up a fight.”

Sartell’s stand-out player was Dougherty, who added another RBI in the bottom of the fourth inning with her second big hit of the game. When the bat wasn’t in her hands, she was humming to the tune of seven innings in the pitcher’s circle without an earned run. Dougherty finished with 14 strikeouts and two walks.

“She did a great job,” Albers said. “We started taking some long swings, and that’s not what we talked about this week. We got away from what we like to do hitting-wise today.”

Despite a frustrating day at the plate, the Cardinals were able to put up five runs on Sartell’s ace. For the second time this year, Alexandria proved it can go toe-to-toe with one of the best pitchers in the section. In the first half of the regular-season doubleheader, the Cardinals put up 10 runs in the fifth inning– ending Dougherty’s day prematurely.

Kamille Dougherty gears up for a pitch in the top of the second inning in Sartell's 10-5 win over Alexandria. Dougherty didn't allow an earned run and drove in four of her own for the Sabres. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Kamille Dougherty gears up for a pitch in the top of the second inning in Sartell's 10-5 win over Alexandria. Dougherty didn't allow an earned run and drove in four of her own for the Sabres. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Alexandria got on the board first in the top of the second inning when a mishandled ball in center field scored two runs off the bat of Brooke Stender. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Sartell made it a five-run game with an RBI single followed by an Alexandria error in left field.

Johnson has been one of the offensive bright spots for Alexandria this postseason. She followed up her walk-off double in the opening-round win over Bemidji (13-11) with a 3-for-4 day on Tuesday. Alexandria has six RBIs as a team, all of which have come off Johnson’s bat.

“I’ve been impressed with her from day one,” Albers said. “She’s got some power in her. She fools you because she can swing and miss on a couple before she delivers a big hit for us. I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened for us this year. She’s had a great season with a lot of clutch hits for us.”

While Sartell heads to the Section 8AAA championship, Alexandria will play Bemidji for the fourth time this season. Despite outscoring the Lumberjacks 22-8 in the first three meetings, it took a walk-off effort from the Cardinals to win their first game of the postseason. Albers knows how much Bemidji has improved since the first time they played back on April 22.

Aubrie Porter looks for a sign before her first at-bat in Alexandria's 10-5 loss to Sartell on June 8, 2021. Porter went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the loss. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Aubrie Porter looks for a sign before her first at-bat in Alexandria's 10-5 loss to Sartell on June 8, 2021. Porter went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the loss. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

“It’s not too often you get four cracks at a team,” Albers said. “After that last game you could tell they wanted another shot at us. On paper, I think we’re mere images of each other. They have three girls that can throw. I anticipate another tight game, and hopefully we can get them a fourth time.”

If Alexandria beats Bemidji at 2 p.m. in Sartell on Thursday, it will play the Sabres again at 4:30 p.m. The winner of Thursday’s first game will have to beat Sartell twice to be crowned 8AAA champions. If necessary, the second championship game will be played in Sartell on Friday.

ALEXANDRIA 020 300 0 - 5

SARTELL 007 102 X - 10

ALEXANDRIA HITTING- Brooke Stender 2-4, R; Jordan O’Kane 3-2, BB, R; Emma Magaard 0-4; Emily Harris 0-3, R, BB; Kinzie Johnson 3-4, 2B, 3RBI; Maddie Buboltz 0-2; Maddie Magnuson 0-1; Aubrie Porter 1-4, R; Maci Tilleskjor 0-3, R; Chloe Loch 0-3; Madi Heid 0-1;

PITCHING- Josie Steidl- L 2.2IP, 4H, 6R, 4ER, 2K, 2BB; Emily Harris- 2.1IP, 5H, 2R, 1ER; Jordan O’Kane 1IP, 2H, 2R, 1ER, 1K, 1BB