Alexandria’s Beau Backhaus has thrown some solid outings before but has perhaps never been as dialed in with all three of his pitches as he was in a 4-0 win over Litchfield in the opening round of the District 7 tournament last night.
Backhaus has a fastball, curveball and changeup that he feels comfortable throwing in almost any count. He had all three of those working on Wednesday in a game where he walked nobody and allowed just two hits in nine innings. He struck out six. Backhaus wasted no time going right at hitters, using just 73 pitches to complete the shutout, an average of only 8.1 per inning.
“Along with a couple of games two years ago when Colin Erickson was with us and shut out number one Eden Prairie, threw a one-hitter against Marshall in districts and beat Lakeville North in state, this was one of the all-around best pitching performances I have had by one of my players,” head coach Kevin Engebretson said. “The defense behind him made for a really clean, fun game to watch.”
The Alexandria defense committed no errors on the night and turned a double play to erase one of Litchfield’s base hits. The other runner was thrown out on an attempted steal. That allowed Backhaus to face the minimum of 27 batters.
Backhaus has a curveball that can cause batters fits, and Engebretson said that curve has never been sharper than it was last night. Backhaus told me during the spring season that he is a little unorthodox in that he likes to work off his curveball instead of his fastball to set up his other pitches. Having that kind of confidence in his off-speed stuff makes a big difference at the high school level.
“He always does such a nice job of pitching, not throwing, by getting in the hitter’s mind and picking apart their weaknesses,” Engebretson said. “When he’s on, he’s mixing speeds and working quick…it’s fun to see him execute and use what he’s got to pick apart a hitter.”
Engebretson said he believes its a start that could be contagious for the rest of this pitching staff. When Post 87 won the Grand Rapids Tournament earlier this summer, their starters seemed to feed off each other’s success as they allowed just four earned runs in six games.
“It’s one of those things where as a pitcher, you get to see what works and you want to match it or better,” Engebretson said. “Beau hopefully set the tone in a positive way for our other starters for the rest of the week, and we see some good results. If you throw strikes and trust your defense, most times good things will happen.”
Alexandria will turn to lefty Blake Stockert to try and match that performance when Post 87 takes on second-seeded Marshall in the second round tonight. The two teams will meet at Optimist Park in Litchfield for a 7 p.m. first pitch.
A win would put Alexandria in the championship game, where it would await the team that advances through the loser’s bracket. The title game will be played at 1 p.m. on Saturday with a game two, if necessary, immediately after that.
Post 87 will likely need their pitching to come through all week if they’re going to advance to the state tournament. Engebretson said Backhaus’ low pitch count could mean he’ll be available if they play on Saturday. He also has Nick Knoblach, AJ Anderson and Logan Serum that he’s confident in turning to in a big game.
“It has been our pitching all summer that has kept us in games and allowed us to be successful,” Engebretson said. “Every one of those guys wants the ball and competes hard every time out, so whoever we go with, we like our options moving forward.”