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Glenn Pursley, Published July 29 2013

Alexandria claims Minnesota Division I, Sub-State 14 championship

MOORHEAD – A pair of home runs sealed the deal for Alexandria on Sunday.

Cody McLaughlin opened the game with a two-run homer in the first and Beau Backhaus slugged a three-run shot in the ninth to secure Alexandria’s place in the Minnesota state Legion tournament with an 18-5 win over No. 7-seeded Bemidji in the championship game of the Minnesota Division I, Sub-State 14 American Legion baseball tournament at Matson Field.

“It feels really good,” Alexandria head coach Jake Muncsh said. “The competition is a lot harder this year with the districts this year, but words can’t really describe it. We are just really excited where we are at, especially in the new district.”

McLaughlin’s two-run homer in the first inning drove in Pat Leary to give Alexandria a quick 2-0 lead.

“I think it helped us get on board and ready to score some more runs,” McLaughlin said. “We got a lot of hits, scored a lot of runs and hit some bombs. It feels awesome.”

Mitch Thompson drove in his first run with a double in the fifth inning and Backhaus followed with a two-run single that scored Thompson and Toby Helgeson. Parker Bowden then drove in Jeff Swedberg with a single to cap a six-run, four-hit inning that put Alexandria up 9-4.

Bowden added a single in the eighth to finish 2-for-2 with three RBIs and Backhaus led Alexandria on offense with two hits and five RBIs.

Leary doubled off the left-center field fence to start the ninth and Ben Allen and Ben Kluver followed with singles to set up Backhaus’ three-run shot.

“Honestly, I was just swinging as hard as I possibly could,” said Backhaus of his first-ever home run. “We played great baseball and we have all season, and it wouldn’t be right to walk out of here without a tournament victory.”

Bemidji scored four of its five runs in the first inning and tacked on one more in sixth.

Nick Hovila led off the first with a single and Thomas Revering found an opening between first and second base to score Lucas Goins, who reached first after being hit by pitch.

In the sixth, Hovila connected against Alexandria starter Blake Stockert for a single that scored Collin Rutledge. Rutledge and Hovila each scored a run and led Bemidji on offense with two hits apiece.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of the toughness these kids showed to battle all the way to the last out,” Bemidji head coach Nate Blumhagen said. “The kids came out this whole tournament and just battled. They really played the best baseball I’ve seen out of them all year.”

Blumhagen added: “We really had our shot last night, I think. I feel like we outplayed them, but we suffered a tough one last night and couldn’t rebound today.”

In Sunday’s first championship game, Bemidji lost to Alex by one run 6-5 in the 13th inning.

A 201 061 125– 18 12 3

B 400 001 000– 5 10 1

Stockert, C. Leary (6), Backhaus (7), Bowden (9) and P. Leary. Rutledge, Hovila (6), McNallan (6), Salander (9), Revering (9) and Buckanaga. W–Stockert. L–Rutledge. HR–A, McLaughlin 1, Backhaus 1.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Glenn Pursley at (701) 241-5549