by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Thanks to the Integrity Insurance men’s team, there is one Elk River slow-pitch softball championship trophy that stayed in town this summer.
Teams from St. Michael, Big Lake and Princeton snagged the first three crowns, but Integrity snagged the last trophy awarded by pummeling McPete’s/Paragon 27-16 in the Class E finals Tuesday evening. Their Big Lake rivals had forced a second game by upending Integrity 17-15.
“We had a lot of heart. The second game really turned round when we got ourselves fired up,” said Matt Pagh, Integrity third baseman and manager. ” All of a sudden we got everything going right. I’m proud of the guys. We played hard all year.”
Other 2012 champs were Warrior Manufacturing of St. Michael (Wednesday women), Tootsie’s Orange of Big Lake (Monday men), and ECM Big Boys of Princeton (Tuesday men Class D).
Among nine Class E teams, McPete’s/Paragon was the first-place team in the regular season with Integrity second. However, Integrity won both regular season duels and two of three in the playoffs from McPete’s/Paragon.
McPete’s/Paragon won the semifinal 13-12 over Central Fielders in nine innings, the game-winner scoring on a bases-loaded walk.
The Big Lakers forced a second game of the finals by slugging out a 17-15 win over Integrity, the big hits being a two-run homer (inside-the-park) by Kaylen Thomas and two-run triple by Gordon Sanford. They led 17-9 going into the last of the seventh when Integrity scored six runs before falling short.
“We were not warmed up, and they had been playing, and they were really ready to hit,” said Pagh. “But we always start slow. That’s the way we played all year. In the regular season we had a lot of splits because we tend to get into the groove in the second game of the night.”
Integrity, its attack seemingly building as the night wore on, erupted for a pair of 10-run innings in the finals as they won 27-16 in six innings.
Eric Gebhard, who had belted three over-the-fence “outs” in the first game, managed to keep the ball inside the park for a three-run homer to deep right plus an RBI triple to deep center in the second game. But the hits came from all around the lineup.
McPete’s/Paragon’s big blow was a three-run homer by the fleet, lanky Sanford.
The championship lineup had Bill Lavign pitching, Ted Schoeppach catching, David Vinje at first base, Greg Gebhard at second, Matt Pagh at third, Eric Gebhard at shortstop, and Phil May, Tracy Miklas, Dusty Bredlow, and Kenny Wirth left to right in the outfield, plus Corey Wemple and Neil Gagnon off the bench.
McPete’s/Paragon’s lineup was Eddie Coon pitching, Al Johnson catching, Raine Hentges at first, Jamie Pietz at second, David Blasing at third, Kaylen Thomas at short, and outfielders (left to right) Jay Apel, Gordon Sanford, Ted Broske, and captain Jeremy Hinton, with Jason Campbell as extra hitter.
Integrity beat Federal and Center Fielders to reach the finals in the nine-team, double-elimination tournament.
This is the second year Integrity has been together. Last year they had some injuries but this year were able to put a full team on the field the whole summer, said Pagh.