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Willmar gets early exit

EDEN PRAIRIE -- The Willmar Cardinals put up a fight, but couldn't match the lively bats of No. 1-seed Eden Prairie on Monday.

The Eagles pounded out 12 hits en route to a 9-3 win in the first round of the Section 2AAA baseball tournament on Monday. The loss eliminated the No. 9-seeded Cardinals, who beat Buffalo 12-5 in the first round of Section 2AAA.

Eden Prairie (20-1) moves into double-elimination, and, as the top seed will host the final four.

Andrew Bangen took the loss. Grant Soderberg, a junior left-hander, went 5Zc innings for the win.

The Cardinals showed no signs of intimidation playing the No. 1-ranked team in Class AAA at Round Lake Park.

The Eagles were the shaky team to start the game, leading to a pair of unearned Willmar runs.

Leadoff hitter Austin Adamson reached on a throwing error. Jake Rambow then singled sharply to center field, moving Adamson up a base.

Dean Stier then laid down a perfect bunt that he beat out for a hit to load the bases. Bangen then grounded to shortstop and Adamson scored. With Ryan Horning batting, a delayed double steal scored Rambow in a close play at the plate.

The 2-0 advantage stood for two innings. Bangen ran into difficulty in the third. With one out, he walked No. 9 hitter David Balusky and then Brian Athey. Tony Skjefte then belted a pitch over the left-field fence to give the Eagles a 3-2 advantage.

Eden Prairie, which is the defending section champions, pushed five mors runs across in the fifth inning. Matt Linter hit a run-scoring doubles and pinch-hitter Ryan Bull followed with the triple.

Stier was then called on to replace Bangen on the mound and the left-hander recorded the final out of the inning.

Willmar picked up a run in the sixth on singles by Stier and Horning and an infield error.

The Cardinals were errorless in the field, while the host team committed two miscues, both leading to runs.

Eden Prairie catcher Matt Halloran threw out two Willmar runners on the bases. Soderberg struck out eight and walked one before leaving with one out in the sixth.

After a 1-8 start, the Cardinals showed steady improvement, putting together a five-game winning streak and a 1-1 record in the playoffs to finish 8-14.