by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River’s softball season ended when unbeaten Brainerd got a walk-off, three-run homer to beat the Elks 6-3 in the Section 8AAA finals on Wednesday in Brainerd.
“The Elks probably had their best showing of the season,” said coach Stacey Sheetz. “We left it all out there today and we could not have been more proud to be an Elk. The Brainerd fans, parents, coaches and girls complimented our girls on how inspiring they were to watch.”
Ali Beadle delivered the big blow on a 3-2 count with two outs off Elk hurler Moriah Bruns, breaking a 3-3 tie in the last of the seventh.
Top-seeded Brainerd, 20-0 and ranked No. 7 in the state, had two chances to beat the Elks once. The Elks led 3-0 before Brainerd scored in each of the last three innings.
Elk River, which finished 17-8, beat Bemidji 4-3 earlier in the day to earn a shot at Brainerd. The Elks had lost to Bemidji 2-1 on Monday.
Elks 4, Bemidji 3
Bethani Athey doubled home the game-winner with one out in the last of the seventh, scoring Kayti Hanson, who had bunted for a hit and moved up when Bruns got aboard on an error.
Athey was 3-for-4 and also had an RBI double in the third that scored Hanson.
Bruns pitched the distance, giving up nine hits, striking out five. Jess Yost, who beat the Elks 2-1 on Monday, took the loss, giving up 11 hits, striking out five.
Hanson was 2-for-4, stole two bases and scored three runs. Bruns, who was 2-for-4, and Courtney Jensen had RBI singles. Michaela Bruns was 2-for-3 with a double.
Bemidji (14-7) tied the score 3-3 in the top of the seventh when Summer Monsrud singled and Janelle Williams knocked her home with a double.
Brainerd 6, Elks 3
Nikki Anderson, the pitcher who’s led Brainerd to a 20-0 record, was nicked for nine hits by the Elks while walking one and striking out five.
Meanwhile Bruns limited Brainerd to five hits, although she walked five and hit two runners who both scored, and struck out six.
In a well-fielded game, all the runs were earned.
The Elks had Anderson and the Warriors on the ropes, getting runners on base in six of seven innings.
In the first, Kaitlyn Roche singled, Hanson bunted her to second and Athey scored her with a single. In the fourth, Jensen singled, Bruns got hit by pitch and Kathi Opsahl double to left, scoring Jensen. In the fifth, Hanson singled, stole a base, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on Moriah Bruns’ sac fly.
Brainerd got a two-run single in the fifth after two runners got aboard on a hit-by-pitch and a misplay on a grounder by second baseman Austyn Beese.
Another HPB started trouble in the sixth as that batter then stole second and scored the tying run on Carlie Sweet’s single to right.
The Elks left a runner on second on the top of the seventh, and Brainerd went to work. Chelsea Moutou singled, Bruns walked a batter, and Beadle stopped to the plate. Their No. 3 hitter, she had struck out and twice been hit-by-pitch. This time she worked the count to 3-2, then smashed the next pitch over the left-field fence.