by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Tucker Morrell sparked Elk River at the plate, the field and the mound as the Elks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over Osseo on Monday.
Morrell got the win with an efficient 2 1/3-inning relief stint. He went 1-for-2 plus a walk and scored a run, and at second base pivoted on a 6-4-3 double play started by Corey Collins.
That was the conference finale in a season where the Elks started 5-1 but finished 9-10 in conference and are 9-11 overall going into playoffs.
“We had a real good start and were feeling pretty high,” said Morrell, “and then we started to see every team’s best pitcher and it got tougher. But I still expect us to make a good run in the section. We’ve got good hitting and a good pitching staff.”
The Elks will start Section 7AAA next Tuesday, likely as the No. 8 seed among 12 teams, which would give them one home game, said coach Ryan Holmgren. The top four teams get byes.
“We needed this one,” said Holmgren. “It’s good for momentum going into post-season. We’ve been focusing for a couple weeks on getting ready for the second season. We feel that with as much as we’ve been challenged (in the NWSC) we can be competitive in the playoffs.”
Elk starter Terry Hadden struggled with control, giving up two runs in 3 2/3 innings, on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in the first and a wild pitch in the fourth. He allowed four hits, three walks and two HBPs.
Morrell (4-4), in his first relief stint after seven starts, got the final out in the fourth on a grounder, and cruised through the next two innings, giving up one hit and no walks. He got some help in the sixth from Hadden in left with a diving catch of a foul ball, and from his brother/catcher Porter Morrell who threw out a would-be base-stealer.
Brady Givens pitched the seventh, giving up a two-out double and striking out two, notching his fourth save in five chances, which Holmgren said is a school record.
Givens, Sam Krick and Sam Wirtz each had a hit and an RBI for the Elks, who got the win with no resounding hits. Good pitching and errorless defense did the trick.
Jon Ludwig, first of three Osseo pitchers, took the loss. Alex Eernisse was 2-for-3 and Brett Moody 2-for-4 with a double for the Orioles, who split with the Elks and have the same won-lost record.