by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Top-seeded Elk River hoped to be in the drivers’ seat after Saturday’s Section 7AAA baseball action but a lanky pitcher from North Branch waylaid their plans.
The Elks lost to Blake Jorgenson and the No. 8 seeded Vikings 5-1 at Grand Rapids, then stayed alive with a 9-2 victory over No. 10 Princeton.
“We”ve got to win four games in two days now,” lamented coach Ryan Holmgren. “But all we’re thinking about now is Grand Rapids. And they are a pretty good team.”
The Elks (15-4) face the host Thunderhawks (15-5) Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Grand Rapids, and if they win, they’d get another shot at upstart North Branch at 6 p.m.
Forest Lake, the No. 2 seed, took the upper hand Saturday, cruising past Grand Rapids 6-1 and North Branch 12-3. Whomever survives Tuesday’s lower-bracket duels will face the Rangers (17-5) on Wednesday at 4 p.m., needing two wins.
North Branch 5, Elks 1
Jorgenson limited the Elks to five hits and struck out six as the Vikings (8-11) pulled off their second straight upset. They had stymied No.4 Anoka 1-0 on Thursday.
“He was a tall right-hander. One of the most impressive pitchers we have seen this year,” said Holmgren. “He was supposed to be their No. 3 pitcher, but he didn’t look like one.”
Elk starter Brandon Meyer cruised through the first three innings, and scored the first run in the third when he walked, stole second, and came around on Porter Morrell’s RBI single.
However, Meyer lost control in the fourth, giving up two runs on three walks, a hit-by-pitch and wild pitch.
Joe Gonrowski pitched a scoreless fifth inning, but the Vikings tagged him for three runs in the sixth, with Ethan Fairbanks singling home one run, and Matt Solberg socking a double for two more.
The Elks had runners at second and third in their half but Jorgenson left them there with a ground out, strikeout and ground out.
“We didn’t come up with the timely hits in this game like we have all year,” said Holmgren.
Getting the Elk hits were Nick Johnson, Morrell, Sam Wirtz, Terry Hadden and Jordan Hollom (double).
This game was played in a light, steady rain. The Elks adjourned to the bus to get rid of their wet home uniforms and change into their road grays.
“We had no choice but to put it behind us because we played again right away,” said Holmgren. “I was proud of the way the kidscame out for the second game.”
Elks 9, Princeton 2
The Elks banged out 11 hits, including two doubles by Johnson that knocked in three runs, as they bounced back to win the elimination game. Morrell had two RBI with a double and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch.
Terry Hadden pitched four innings, allowing two runs, for his fifth win against one loss.
Johnson was 2-for-4, Tim Sanford 2-for-3 (triple), Wirtz 2-for-4 (RBI), Erik Nyquist 2-for-2 (hit-by-pitch, two runs), Morrell 1-for-3, Hadden 1-for-3 (double, RBI) and Brady Givens 1-for-3 (RBI).
Hadden gave up five walks and four hits but kept the damage to a minimum. He struck out four. Nyquist and Alex Babcock each threw a 1-2-3 inning, and Givens finished, giving up a hit and walk while fanning two in the seventh.
Chance Parker, Jamison Schmit and Luke Halbeck pitched for Princeton (8-14), with Parker taking the loss.