by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River had a nine-run inning but it wasn’t enough to hold off Centennial as the Cougars scored five in the seventh to beat the Elks 13-11 at Hales Field on Tuesday.
That was the second loss in two days for the Elks (7-4), who were blanked by Eden Prairie 6-0 on Monday evening at the University of Minnesota’s Siebert Field.
“Very frustrating,” said Elk coach Ryan Holmgren about the loss to Centennial. “We did not come ready to play. We were not focused at the beginning and that’s why we got so far behind. Then there was a controversial call in the seventh that hurt us.”
Centennial took a 7-2 lead against starter Alex Babock and got another run in the fourth off Jon Gonrowski for an 8-2 margin.
The Elks broke loose with nine runs in the fifth, including a two-run double by Erik Nyquist and two-run singles by Austin Heuer, Andrew McMillan and and Mylo Hommes. Ben Johnson singled home the final run.
Heuer’s long fly ball hit the base of the left-field fence, narrowly missing a base-loaded homer. With runners hesitating as the ball was nearly caught, he was held to one base.
The Elks entered the seventh up 11-9 with Gonrowski cruising (one run in three innings) but couldn’t hang on. A single, error, and two-run single by Levi Falck tied the score. Jordan Hollum relieved and gave up three more hits, including a two-run triplle by Tucker Trettel.
The Elks got their first two runners aboard in the last of the seventh. Luke Kutches, the fourth Cougar pitcher, relieved. Kutches had a 2-2 count on Ben Johnson when he hit the batter on the shoulder with a curve ball. However, the umpire ruled that Johnson had not tried to get out of the way and waved it off. Kutches then struck out Johnson and Nyquist and got Brandon Meyer on a fly to center with runners at second and third to end the game.
Holmgren took issue with the umpire’s call.
“We teach kids to wait on the curve so they can hit it when it breaks,” he said. “That’s what Ben was doing. That call was a huge momentum-changer. We could have had bases loaded with none out and our two and three hitters coming up.”
Centennial outhit the Elks 18-13 with Falck going 4-for-5.
Heuer and McMillan (three RBI) were each 3-for-4 for the Elks. Nyquist was 2-for-5 and Johnson and Hommes each 2-for-4.
The Elks will play at Champlin Park on Thursday.
Elks lose to Eden Prairie
Elk River and Eden Prairie fessed up $250 each to rent Siebert Field for an MSHSL-mandated non-conference game Monday evening.
Holmgren said there was a dispute over which team was home team so they avoided the issue by opting to play on the new Siebert Field.
Eagle left-hander Sam Pahl threw five of the seven shutout innings while cleanup hitter Jack Sullivan twice belted an RBI triple and scored himself both times.
“Eden Prairie is very good. They are at the next level, the level where we want to be,” said Holmgren. “It’s good for us to play a team like that.”
Ben Johnson pitched for the Elks, making his first start.