by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Jordan Hollom made a costly error in the top of the fourth inning, but atoned with a big two-run double in the bottom of the inning, and it was that kind of day for Elk River as the Elks beat No. 7 ranked Champlin Park 4-3 on Saturday at home.
Terry Hadden pitched six solid innings for the win and knocked home the go-ahead run, and Brady Givens notched his fourth save although not without some drama.
The victory pulled the Elks (12-2) into a tie for second place in the NWSC with one game left.
“That means a lot,” said coach Ryan Holmgren about second place, “but even more important is that it’s good for our QRF rating, and our seed in the section.”
The Elks came into the game 20th in QRF ratings, he noted, and had not beaten anyone higher than 26th, and the Rebels are 7th.
Coon Rapids has one conference loss, while the Elks and now Champlin Park have two each. The Elks will close conference play hosting Park Center on Monday.
Hollom, junior left fielder, dropped a short fly ball on a difficult play to start the fourth inning when he and shortstop Brandon Meyer had to swerve to avoid colliding. The Rebels followed with two singles to score one run, and, with two outs, Ryan Ross slugged a long double to knock in two more. The error rendered all three runs unearned.
Down 3-0, the Elks were undaunted. They’ve made up bigger deficits than that all year.
“We always seem to come back, somehow,” said Hollom.
The Elks got two singles against Rebel left-hander Daniel Springer before Hollom, a lanky right-hander, leaned into a curve ball, waist high, on a 2-2 pitch, driving it high and deep to right center to score both runs.
“I’m usually more of a line-drive hitter,” said Hollom, a bit surprised by the longball.
Brandon Meyer came through with another two-strike hit, a single, with two outs, driving home Hollom to knot the score.
“Jordan has been hitting the ball pretty well,” said Holmgren. “We keep him in that 7 or 8 position because he’s a junior in his first varsity season and that’s a low pressure spot.”
Hadden got the Rebels out in the fifth and sixth, helped by a diving catch by center fielder Mylo Hommes in the sixth, after a long run, on a ball crushed by Matt Smith to left-center that would have been a homer if not for a stiff wind blowing in.
“That’s the best play I’ve seen by an outfielder in quite a while,” said Holmgren, “and frankly I’ve been waiting for Mylo to do something like that because he made nice catches all the time in VFW last summer.”
Hadden gave himself a one-run lead by ripping a bases-loaded single with two outs in the last of the sixth inning, jumping on the first pitch from Springer. The senior right-hander, now 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA, gave up five hits and one walk in six innings, striking out one.
That set the stage for the Elks’ unscored-up closer, Givens, to move over from second base to the mound. Facing the 7-8-9 hitters, Givens struck out the first two guys on just six pitches, then got ahead 1-2 before No. 9 hitter Dan Sivers crashed a triple to the right-field corner.
“I had to go out and calm him down,” said Holmgren, “because he’s never given up a big hit like that this year. But Brady was great about it. He just said OK, let’s get the next guy.”
Givens then walked leadoff batter Bryce Marquardt. which neither the pitcher nor coach minded because Marquardt is hitting .500 for the year. With runners at first and third, Givens got the next guy on a grounder to Hollom, who replaced him at second base, to end the game. Givens has pitched eight innings in seven appearances, allowing no runs, and striking out 18, with four saves and one win.
Hadden was 2-for-4, Sam Wirz 2-for-2 plus a walk and two runs, and Hollom 2-for-2 plus a walk. Meyer was 1-for-3.
The Elks, in their first winning season since 2004, feel pretty good about holding second place. “Yes, that’s pretty good for as tough as this conference is,” said Meyer.
The Park Center game was supposed to be played Saturday morning before the Champlin Park game but it got rained out. In addition to hosting Park Center on Monday, probably at 4 p.m., the Elks also hope to keep a non-conference game against STMA at 7 or 7:30 if they can find a lighted field available, said Holmgren.