by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
After Elk River’s near-flawless 7-0 conquest of Brainerd on Wednesday, the Elks are one win from the state tournament and will have two chances to get it.
Anna Pipenhagen twirled a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts while the Elks made just one harmless error and drilled 11 hits, and were especially tough with runners in scoring position.
“The girls played really well, and I was happy to take it to these guys today,” said Elk coach Stacey Sheetz.
There’s one downside — the No. 2 seeded Elks will have to make the 200-mile trip to Bemidji that they’ve been trying to avoid, because the No. 1 seeded Lumberjacks stayed alive beating Alexandria and Big Lake, each 3-1, in the lower bracket Wednesday.
“I don’t care where it’s at as long as I get to play softball,” beamed Elk third baseman Ali Krohn, who delivered a two-run single.
Bemidji (19-4) will duel Brainerd (13-6) on Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Section 8AAA semifinals, and the Elks take on the winner at 5 p.m. If the Elks lose, they’ll have to play again Friday.
“I’m hoping somebody beats them, because I don’t want to go there,” said Sheetz after the win over Brainerd. But no such luck.
The Elks will be pursuing their first state berth since the 2009 team won it all.
“I’ve never seen team chemistry like we have,” said Krohn, “and I am so excited to see where it’s going to take us.”
Michaela Bruns knocked in the Elks’ first two runs against Brainerd with a single and sac fly. Krohn plated in the next two with a bases-loaded poke to center.
“Middle of the plate and low, a nice one to drive up the middle,” Krohn said.
A five-run third inning was capped by Kathi Opsahl’s rip inside third base and down the left-field line for a double that knocked in two runs.
Opsahl was 2-for-3 (both doubles), Bruns 2-for-3, Jayme Langbehn 2-for-4 with an RBI single, Courtney Jensen 2-for-3, Krohn 1-for-3, Jess Neuman 1-for-3, and Marie Deaton 1-for-4 (two runs).
Maddie Franz pitched the distance for No. 4 seeded Brainerd. Sara Wennetstand and Mikaela Chandler had the hits. The Warriors had four errors.