MINNEAPOLIS - The saying that baseball is a game of inches was on full display Thursday in Willmar's Class AAA quarterfinal against Alexandria.
Alexandria's Brady Reisdorf sent a ground ball just inches past the outstretched glove of Willmar first baseman Jack Baumgart in the third inning, allowing two teammates to score and put the Cardinals from the north on top 2-1. That was the only scoring play of the day for Alexandria but it was enough to help a powerful performance from Brock Anderson from the mound as Alexandria survived and ended Willmar's run for a state tournament. Willmar will play in the consolation bracket with a noon game against Grand Rapids Friday at the University of Northwestern.
Anderson spun a one-hit shutout against Willmar to start the season and he had similar streaks of excellence on display Thursday. He struck out 10 Willmar batters and only allowed two hits.
"I thought he did a good job throwing his breaking ball for strikes, he went to that later in the game and started changing his approach to batters," DeBoer said. "Our guys were starting to time up his fastball and we had some good swings with runners on that just fouled off. He's a good pitcher, he's pitched in big situations before and big games."
The senior lefty did struggle with his command, though, walking eight batters in 5-2/3 innings of work. He allowed a one-out single to Jayden Dierenfeld in the top of third inning and proceeded to walk the next three of the next four batters to score Dierenfeld. The future North Dakota State pitcher buckled down to strike out Willmar catcher Drey Dirksen and end the rally with the visitors up 1-0.
Alexandria wasn't down for long, though. Third baseman Isaac Peterson hit one of his two doubles in the game during the bottom of the third just before Reisdorf's two-run single.
Aside from the two hits, Willmar starter Caleb Ditmarson kept pace with Anderson on the mound. Ditmarson allowed five hits and just the two runs with two walks. He finished the game with four strikeouts in the six-inning outing.
"Caleb was really good," DeBoer said. "He matched Brock almost inning for inning, just one pitch, one ball that snuck through the infield. If Jack is maybe a step or two deeper he might make that play. They still score on that play but they might not get two ... It was a couple of inches away, but that's baseball."
Anderson ran into trouble again in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with three walks before ceding to Levi Levasseur. The junior reliever struck out pinch hitter Ashton Gregory to end the threat and followed that up with quick seventh inning that featured a flyout and a pair of strikeouts to earn the four-out save.
"The goal for the end of the season maybe is a little different now but it's still to end with a win," Willmar head coach Tom DeBoer said. "We've got a chance to play two more baseball games tomorrow and to finish with a 5th place trophy. We get a little time to let this sink in. It's okay to feel bad and feel down but we have to move past it. We're at the elite level, top eight teams in the state. You can't be mad that you lost to Alexandria and you lost to one of the best pitchers in the state."
Alexandria 2, Willmar 1
Willmar 001 000 0-1 2 0
Alexandria 002 000 x-2 5 0
Hitting - Willmar: Andy Schult 0-1 rbi, Drey Dirksen 1-2, Jayden Dierenfeld 1-3 r ... Alexandria: Braden Reisdorf 1-3 rbi-2, Isaac Peterson 2-2 2b-2 r
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Caleb Ditmarson (L) 6-5-2-2-2-4 ... Alexandria: Brock Anderson (W) 5.2-2-1-1-8-10, Luke Levasseur (Sv) 1.1-0-0-0-0-3