by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Double-digit wins might be a modest goal for a lot of town baseball teams, but Elk River Pioneers were elated to reach that milestone and stay alive in the playoffs Saturday.
The Pioneers topped Albertville 6-2 behind Aaron Pipenhagen’s two-hitter, their second playoff win in four outings, raising their overall mark to 10-14.
“Ten wins, not bad after only getting two all last year,” noted Jim Brown, who had three hits.
The No. 3 seeded Pioneers will try stay alive in the Section 8B tournament Sunday, taking on St. Michael at 2 p.m. at Winter Crest Field in Coon Rapids, where the whole tournament is being held. The winner will clinch a berth in the super-sectional Aug. 17-19 and face Coon Rapids at 5 p.m. for seeding.
Pipenhangen, a big right-hander, fired a two-hitter with nine strikeouts in posting his fifth win and fourth complete game, pitching to Lance Johnson. He walked five. Showing good pop throughout, he struck out the side in the seventh inning.
About this season’s team improvement, he reflected: “The guys are closer this year. There’s more camaraderie, more hanging out together, after games, things like that. It’s fun to be part of it.”
Also instrumental is an influx of Zimmerman athletes, as seven of the 15 players are Thunder alums.
“Yeah, the Zimmerman guys have really helped us.”
Top-seeded Coon Rapids beat No. 2 St. Michael 10-2 later Saturday to clinch advancement.
“We are playing good ball now, and we can give either team a good game,” said Pioneer manager Ken Ott to his squad after the win.
Against Albertville, the Elks had a three-run burst in the third on three hits and a suicide squeeze bunt, opening a 4-1 lead.
Harley Thompson singled to lead off that inning, stole second, took third on Jim Brown’s single, and scored on a ground out. Kam Crandell drilled a triple to score Brown, and scooted home when Tucker Morrell pushed the squeeze bunt toward first base.
Morrell had four good at-bats with an RBI single, the bunt, and two walks, officially going 1-for-1 with two RBI. Brown was 3-for-4 with two runs and Mike Lorden 2-for-4.
Albertville starter Ryan Klingelhofer took the loss, giving up six runs in 6 1/3 inning. Todd Klaers finished with 1 2/3 scoreless. Jim Althoff stole four bases while going 1-for-3 plus a walk.