Baseball: Elks bask in sunshine and two opening victories after a month inside

Elk River coach huddled with baserunners Tim Sanford, Andrew McMillan and Brady Givens during a bases-loaded situation against Hopkins while the Royals coach conferred with his pitcher. The Elks won 5-0. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Elk River coach Ryan Holmgren huddled with baserunners Tim Sanford, Andrew McMillan and Brady Givens during a bases-loaded situation against Hopkins while the Royals coach conferred with his pitcher. The Elks won 5-0. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

 

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Elk River baseball picked up two victories on its long-awaited opening day on Saturday, 5-0 over Hopkins and 11-10 over Bemidji, at home.

Coach Ryan Holmgren told his team that “they won one pretty one and one ugly one” but the whole day was beautiful in the respects that (1) they finally got to play some ball and (2) the weather was glorious, especially in contrast to the rest of April that wiped out the first three weeks of the season.

“You couldn’t ask for better weather,” said Holmgren. “The weather was in mid-season form. The field can still use a little work, though.”

Said Terry Hadden, who pitched three scoreless innings against Hopkins and got the game-winning RBI’s against Bemidji, “It was great to finally be outside and play. The field was surprisingly nice, just a couple soft spots in center field.”

Porter Morrell followed through on a pitch against Hopkins. He struck out five in three scoreless innings. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Porter Morrell followed through on a pitch against Hopkins. He struck out five in three scoreless innings. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

 

Asked how the team kept from going crazy after spending most of April indoors, Hadden said they to improvise a bit. One day they played against the softball team in the gym using tennis rackets for bats and, or course, tennis balls.

“That’s a game Stacy Sheetz has her elementary PE classes play,” said Holmgren, referring to the softball coach. “For our guys, it was competition. They were dying for some competition.”

(For the record, the boys won the varsity game and the girls won the JV game.)

Brand Meyer digs in with bases loaded against Bemidji, just before delivering a two-run single. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Brand Meyer digs in with bases loaded against Bemidji, just before delivering a two-run single. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

Against Hopkins, Hadden and Porter Morrell pitched three innings each and Brady Givens closed it out as they combined for a seven-inning, three-hit shutout with one walk and six strikeouts (five of those by Morrell). And the defense made no errors.

Brandon Meyer socked a two-run double, Givins had an RBI single, and Andrew McMillan went 2-for-3.

Logan Athmann took the loss for Hopkins.

As slick as the Elks were against Hopkins they were sloppy against Bemidji, committing six errors that rendered most of the runs unearned.

Still, the Elks were able to rally from an 8-3 deficit by playing better as the game wore on, and delivering some timely hits.

“As bad as we had been playing, we saw we still had a chance to win this thing,” said Holmgren. “It was very encouraging we were able to pull that one out.”

Bemidji was state runner-up in Class 3A last year, but graduated most of their lineup. The Lumberjacks played three games in the metro area (going 1-2) because they’re still under snow and ice on the Iron Range.

For Bemidji, Collin Rutledge’s run-scoring triple and RBI singles by Devin Barrett and Billy Baumgartner highlighted a 4-run first inning. Baumgartner added another RBI hit in the second.

Big hits for the Elks were bases-loaded singles by Meyer during a five-run fourth inning and by Hadden in the three-run fifth inning. Both hits knocked in two runs. On Hadden’s hit, a third run scored on a throwing error, putting the Elks up 11-9. The five-run fourth that included two bases-loaded walks tied the score 8-8.

Nick Johnson made two costly throwing errors at second base but went 3-for-4 at the plate and scored two runs. Erik Nyquist in the No. 9 slot got aboard three times on a hit, walk, and error, and scored three runs.

Meyer, Joe Gonrowksi, Jordan Hollom and Nyquist pitched. Hollom got the win, working 3 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) and striking out four. Nyquist got the save, allowing an unearned run in two innings with two K’s.

The Elks will play at Anoka on Monday and host Blaine on Tuesday.

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