by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River coach Stacey Sheetz thought the Elks finally had Maple Grove beat.
However, a homer in the last of the seventh and a couple good bunts in the last of the eighth lifted the No. 2 ranked Crimson to a 2-1 win over the No. 5 Elks in Maple Grove on Saturday, the regular-season finale.
“I thought we had them this time,” said Sheetz. “We were ahead the whole game. Our defense was awesome. We were making diving catches and finishing real well. Everything was going good.”
A solo homer by Jayme Langbehn and a stellar mound performance by Anna Pipenhagen went for naught as Maple Grove and right-hander Sydney Smith.
Maple Grove finished the regular season 17-1, including 6-5 and 1-0 wins over the Elks, who finished 14-3. The Crimson have won six straight and nine of 10 over the Elks in the last five years.
Langbehn cranked out a homer of Smith in the second inning, her third of the season. The freshman outfielder is 3-for-6 in two games against the Crimson ace.
But that would be all the Elks would get against Smith, a sophomore who has already verbally committed to Louisiana State. She fired a four-hitter with no walks and 11 strikeouts.
Pipenhagen took a five-hit shutout into the last of the seventh but Bri Bresel led off with a home run. In the eighth, the Elks had their only error of the game to put the leadoff batter aboard. A sac bunt, then a bunt that Sammi Sadler beat out on a close play, put runners on first and third with one out. Jordan Mauch’s RBI single ended the game.
Pipenhagen gave up eight hits and just one walk, striking out seven. Elks getting one hit each were Jess Neuman, Michaela Bruns, Kathi Opsahl and Langbehn. Sadler was 3-for-4 for Maple Grove.
This was a non-conference game. The earlier game against Maple Grove was the conference game. Maple Grove was 10-0 while the Elks and Anoka tied for second at 8-2.
The Elks, after their best regular season in Sheetz’s coaching tenure, have a good chance to play as many as three section games at home. They were first in section QRF ratings before the Maple Grove loss, which should not hurt them.
The top four seeds in Section 7AAA have a home game for a single-elimination round Wednesday. Among Wednesday winners, the higher-seeded teams host two rounds Memorial Day.