Golden Rams head south to start season

Anoka-Ramsey Community College softball and baseball teams hit the road find more sun and warmth to get the 2016 season started.

The Golden Rams softball team traveled to Florida where they lost all eight games (five games against Division II teams) in three doubleheaders during the March 11-15 spring trip against Cumberland County College (ranked No. 5 in NJCAA Division III), Lincoln College, Chesapeake College, County College of Morris and College of DuPage.

Anoka-Ramsey catcher Steph Keeler sets up behind the plate during a game in the warm Florida sun during the team’s annual spring trip.   Submitted photo
Anoka-Ramsey catcher Steph Keeler sets up behind the plate during a game in the warm Florida sun during the team’s annual spring trip. Submitted photo

Coach Dave Alto said the opportunity to get back outside and face very good competition preceeds wins and losses at this point of the season. Cumberland already played 10 games before the Golden Rams played its first game.

The final day of the trip started with a 13-7 loss to County College of Morris on March 15. Morris posted a 10-run third inning before the Golden Rams mounted a comeback attempt scoring five runs in the top half of the fourth inning sparked by a two-run base hit by Michaela Donat. Steph Keeler and Kaylee Lofboom (North Branch) each had multiple hits in the loss.

Anoka-Ramsey Community College pitcher Alexus Martin-Warren (Andover) toes the rubber in Florida with Cassie Kunkel at first base.    Submitted photo
Anoka-Ramsey Community College pitcher Alexus Martin-Warren (Andover) toes the rubber in Florida with Cassie Kunkel at first base. Submitted photo

The second game of the day, against College of DuPage (Illinois) proved to be the most complete performance of the trip with Lofboom settling down after giving up five runs in the third inning to go the distance.

The Golden Rams bats came alive in the home half of the third inning as the bases were loaded for Cassie Kunkel, who led the nation in home runs last year. A line-drive snagged by the third baseman, turned and fired the ball to second base for the double play to keep the Golden Rams searching for more.

“Stats don’t always tell the story as Cassie had two hits to the fence in a 25 mile-per-hour wind blowing in and if not for that, they would’ve been out (of the park),” Alto said.

Erin Krieger and Becca Liebelt each had multiple hit games for the Golden Rams.
Anoka-Ramsey closed out the week with three games at the dome in Rosemount March 18, ending with the first win of the season.

The Golden Rams knocked off Central Lakes College-Brainerd with an 8-5 win after posting four runs in the first inning and three runs in the second inning.

Liebelt, a freshman infielder went 3-for-4 with a home run, scored three runs and drove in five runs as leadoff batter. Ana Doran, a sophomore outfielder, added two hits including a double and stole one base. Krieger, a sophomore infielder, walked twice and stole one base. Sophomore catcher Jen Zidar drove in a run on a sac fly and returns after becoming the second Golden Ram to earn NJCAA Division III All-American honors. The Forest Lake High School graduate was also named to the NJCAA Division III All-Region XIIIA team after a top-eight ranking nationally in seven categories. She was third in hits (78), on-base percentage (.648) and runs batted in (69) and posted the fourth-best batting average in the nation at .619.

Doran leads the team with a .483 batting average, 14 hits and four stolen bases.

Liebelt is second on team with a .387 batting average and team-best 11 RBIs.

Alexus Martin-Warren, a freshman utility player from Andover, leads the team with seven runs scored and will be in the pitching rotation, with Bailey Cole of Anoka, behind Lofboom.

Lofboom is the most experienced pitcher so far throwing 38 1/3 innings over eight games. She is 1-5 with a 6.76 earned run average and is averaging 2.37 strikeouts per game.

Anoka-Ramsey is anticipated to travel to Rochester for a four-game series Friday and Saturday before opening the home and MCAC schedule in Cambridge at 3 p.m. April 5 against Minnesota State and Community Technical College.

Golden Rams baseball
Anoka-Ramsey kicked off the 2016 season with its annual trip (March 13-18) to Arkansas where the team went 3-8, posting 79 runs and hitting seven home runs in 9 games.

After dropping both games to North Arkansas College on March 13, the Golden Rams rebounded the next day with a walk-off 6-5 win over Lake Region State College (North Dakota) only to lose a walk-off to North Arkansas College 7-6 to end the day.

Three walk-off losses in two days was a tough way to start the season for Anoka-Ramsey.

The win came from a late rally as they were down 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning before singles by Joe Lewis, Haven Williams, Jared Vance and Brent Tholen also included a sacrifice fly by Jordan Langness to tie the game at 5-5. Catcher Justin Reeves walked to load the bases before a wild pitch allowing Vance to score from third base.

Parker Janske took the win for the Golden Rams in three innings of relief work.
Anoka-Ramsey found itself ahead 4-3 in the March 13 season opener against North Arkansas College going into the bottom of the sixth inning. A solo home run by Michael Zimbeck in the fourth inning and run-producing singles by Mylo Hommes and Brennan Beese in the sixth inning accounted for the narrow lead. Four runs on six hits in the sixth inning was enough for the home team to walk off as winners.

The second game got away from the Golden Rams late as North Arkansas scored four runs in the sixth inning for an 8-3 win.

After dropping three straight and off to a 1-5 start, Anoka-Ramsey came out ahead of Lake Region by a 27-20 score on March 16. The Golden Rams led 9-4 after three innings thanks to 10 hits but trailed 11-10 by the fifth inning and put the game away with a 14-run, 12-hit sixth inning. They couldn’t replicate that offensive effort in the second game as Lake Region came out ahead by a 12-8 score.

Tholen was 7-for-11 between the two games. He drove in eight runs and scored four times. Zimbeck went 5-for-6 with three doubles and Langness had five hits and drove in eight runs.

A 3-2 win over North Arkansas on March 17 gave way to two double-digit losses (10-5 to North Arkansas in seven innings and 17-3 in five innings to Lake Region) to close out the spring trip.

Anoka-Ramsey is off until hosting UW-Barron County and Vermillion Community College for a pair of doubleheaders April 2-3 at Wintercrest Field in Coon Rapids. Games are set for 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day.

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