Alexandria Beetles manager Drew Saberhagen knows being two games back with five games left puts his team in a really tough position heading into the final five games of the regular season.
The Beetles had first place within their grasp last night in Willmar before watching it slip away. Alexandria led early behind a three-run home run from Robert Case in the top of the first. That lead lasted just two innings before the Stingers scored three in the third to take a 4-3 lead in a game they eventually won 5-3.
Instead of pulling even with Willmar, Alexandria found itself in third place in the North Division standings after last night, two back of the Stingers and a half game behind St. Cloud.
“It was a big shift of emotion,” Saberhagen said on Wednesday morning. “But the guys’ heads are in the right place.”
That’s important if the Beetles are going to put any pressure on Willmar and St. Cloud over the next five days. The Beetles open a three-game series against Rochester at home tonight. Saberhagen said his team had already shifted its focus to sweeping that series and performing well in the final two games of the regular season in Duluth this weekend.
“These guys love playing together and they want to go out on a good note,” Saberhagen said. “Whether that’s going to the playoffs or finishing strong with a better record. After I told them to keep their heads up last night, they had a quick meeting and said, ‘Why can’t we win five in a row and make this interesting?’ They’re definitely into it. I don’t think you’ll see anything other than their best effort.”
While Alexandria is playing the last place team in the North Division in the Honkers, Willmar will have to battle first-half champion Mankato for three games before wrapping things up with two against Thunder Bay. That looks good for the Beetles on paper, but the MoonDogs have lost five straight and are 1-9 in their last 10 games.
They are tied with Rochester with an 11-19 record in the second half after going 28-7 to win the first half. St. Cloud will take on Waterloo (14-16) for three games before going on the road to Rochester for the final two games over the weekend.
The Beetles fought hard just to get in position to play important games in August. Saberhagen says they will continue doing that and hope for a little help heading into the weekend.
“We’re not going to be scoreboard watching too much,” he said. “If we’re eliminated tomorrow, they’ll play the last three games out as hard as they can. I don’t think effort is going to be an issue. If we lose, it’s just going to be that the other team beat us. I’m proud of the way the guys have played the last two, three weeks. It could have gotten really ugly on us again after the all-star break, but they turned it around and we still have a chance to compete for a playoff spot.”