by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
In their annual Friday Night Lights ballgame, the Elk River Elks were able to put on a good show for parents and friends with a 5-1 victory over Blaine at Orono Fields.
“It’s very special, very exciting, for Dani and I especially, as seniors,” said catcher Bethani Athey, referring to outfielder Dani Edwards. “Last year we had about a thousand fans and we were hoping to hit that again this year, and we were all pumped up and ready for it.”
Well, there might not have been that many fans but certainly far more than the normal 4:15 weekday games that many parents have to miss. There was a good turnout not only from Elk River but also from Blaine ringing Field 4 at Orono.
“It’s a fun atmosphere. The girls were excited because it’s nice to get more people at the game,” said coach Stacy Sheetz. “And they did pretty good.”
This once-a-year game has all the trimmings including PA intro’s of both teams, the anthem (sung by left-fielder Ali Krohn), an immaculately chalked infield, and a concession stand with burgers.
“My booster club is amazing, and the city helps with the park,” said Sheetz.
This event was started last year, spearheaded by Sandy Hanson, whose daughter Kayti was a fifth-year starter who had ever played in a “prime-time” game. The Elks beat Osseo 13-5 and had a big crowd, and the boosters decided to make it annual.
“This is when we have parents night, too,” said Athey, “so we can get a lot of parents noticed, because they got us to where we are.”
Elk sophomore righthander Anna Pipenhagen pitched the distance, limiting Blaine to six hits and two walks, striking out six.
Blaine junior Jessica Eppenberger has a nice live arm and struck out 13 batters while holding the Elks to six hits. But she walked four, and while each team had three errors, Blaine’s were more costly.
The Elks had RBI hits by Athey, Jess Neuman, and Edwards, and scored a couple more runs on aggressive baserunning.
Athey was 1-for-1 plus two walks, Neumann 1-for-2 with two runs, Krohn 1-for-2, and Bruns, Edwards and Jayme Langebehn 1-for-3.
Blaine had a chance to score a couple runs in the second when bases were loaded with one out. But the Elks got a home-to-first double play, with the second out coming when the batter ran inside the baseline and Athey’s throw struck her in the calf.
Blaine’s Katie Swanstrom ripped an RBI single in the fifth and the Bengals loaded the bases again but Pipenhagen got a strikeout on a 3-2 pitch to hold what was then a 2-1 lead.
The Elks improved to 3-6 conference, 5-8 overall, while Blaine slipped to 3-7 conference, 5-7 overall. Next for the Elks will be Anoka at home on Monday.