by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Pitch counts were a key stat for Elk River as Tucker Morrell led the Elks to a 2-1 opening victory over No. 4 ranked, perennial power Coon Rapids on Thursday.
The Elk senior righthander had a low enough count to finish his own game after his team scored the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh at Coon Rapids.
“First sign of trouble, we were going to get him out of there, but he did great,” said coach Ryan Holmgren. “He had only 67 pitches after six innings, including one inning with seven and one with eight.”
Meanwhile, Coon Rapids’ lanky, hard-throwing junior Logan Shore struck out 10 in six innings but got his count up to about 90.
“Shore is one of the top prospects in the state,” noted Holmgren. “We had a lot of great at-bats against him. We talked about that. We made him throw a lot more pitches than they probably wanted him to.”
Alex Aase pitched the seventh and the Elks scratched for a run against him. Tim Sanford dumped a leadoff single to right center, took second on a wild pitch and third on Brady Givens’ bunt. After Terry Hadden walked and stole second, Sanford chugged home when Garrett Ott loft a sac fly to medium deep center.
Morrell had a quick 1-2-3 seventh with one strikeout, and finished with a six-hitter, one walk and three K’s. The last out was a grounder to short by Kyle Wold, who had two hits against him previously.
“This was a real nice win for us,” said Holmgren, an ERHS alum making his debut as head coach after three years coaching Spring Lake Park. “I know it’s been quite a while since we’ve beaten Coon Rapids.”
The Elks had just three hits against Shore but squeeze-bunted for a run off him in the second inning. Givens doubled down the left-field line on a 1-2 count and scored from third on Hadden’s squeeze down the first-base line.
The lone run off Morrell was unearned, scoring when shortstop Corey Collins threw wide of first base going for a double play, allowing the runner on second base to come home, also in the second inning.
Collins would atone by turning two inning-ending double plays, one of them started by Givens at second base. The Elks ended another inning with catcher Porter Morrell throwing out a base-stealer.
The Elks will host Armstrong on Monday.