by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River suffered uncustomary lapses in fielding and control on Monday and the result was a costly 9-4 loss to Park Center at home.
The setback in their conference finale cost the Elks a share of second place in the NWSC and probably more.
“We were ranked first in the section in QRF before today, but we probably won’t get the top seed now,” said coach Ryan Holmgren.
The Elks’ 4-3 win over highly-ranked Champlin Park on Saturday boosted them in both quests, only to fall to a middle-of-the-pack Park Center team.
In conference, Coon Rapids finished 10-0, Champlin Park 8-2 and the Elks 7-3, still a strong finish for a team in its first season above .500 since 2004. The Elks are 12-3 overall with two non-conference games left.
The Elks gave up three runs in the third after botching a two-out grounder with bases loaded.
In the fifth, Elk starter Brandon Meyer got the first batter out, then lost control as he hit two batters and walked the next three. Reliever Bob Gonrowski was greeted by Austin Ledin with a two-run double. A sac fly then completed a five-run inning that made the score 8-2.
“Park Center is talented and scrappy and I think they are better than their record,” said Holmgren. “But we didn’t do ourselves any favors today, either.”
The Pirates (9-9) used five pitchers because they are starting playoffs on Thursday.
Erik Nyquist finished for the Elks, allowing one unearned run in three innings.
Brady Givens ripped three doubles in four at-bats for the Elks, with one run and one RBI. Meyer was 2-for-4 and Tim Sanford had an RBI single.
The Elks will play at St. Michael-Albertville on Tuesday, 4:30 p.m., and will host Duluth East on Wednesday, 5 p.m.
The Elks are likely to get one of the top four seeds in Section 7AAA, which would give them a bye for the sudden-death first round Monday and put them in the eight-team, double-elim tournament starting next Thursday with a home game.