by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River will face defending champion Mounds View and highly-touted Ben Hentges on Thursday in the Elks’ first state baseball tournament game since 2003.
The Section 7AAA champion Elks (17-8) were seeded No. 5 and will duel the No. 4 Mustangs (18-6) at 12:30 p.m., at Midway Stadium in St. Paul.
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Hentges was named Gatorade Player of the Year and is a Mr. Baseball finalist. A pitcher and first baseman, he is expected to be taken in the major league draft and has committed to Arkansas. He has a 6-0 record and 0.81 ERA while hitting .362 with three homers and 17 RBI’s.
“It sounds like he’s as good a hitter as he is a pitcher,” said Elk coach Ryan Holmgren. “But we never worry about who we are playing against, only about how we are playing.”
About facing the defending champions, Holmgren said, “They have a new coach and they graduated a lot of guys but they are obviously still pretty good.”
The Elks top two pitchers are Erik Nyquist (8-1 with a 1.62 ERA) and Jordan Hollom (3-1 and 2.70). Top hitters include Austin Heuer (.324, 12 RBI), Hollom (three homers, 13 RBI), and Brandon Meyer.
The Elks/Mustangs game is in the top bracket along with No. 1 seeded Lakeville North (21-4) vs. Brainerd at 10 a.m.
The bottom bracket has No. 3 Eden Prairie (18-6) vs. Robbinsdale Armstrong (14-9) and No. 2 Mahtomedi (23-1) vs. Lakeville South (7-18) at 5:30 p.m.
Semifinals will be played at noon and 2:30 p.m. Friday at Midway Stadium with a third-place game the same day at 5 p.m. and the finals at Target Field on Saturday, 6 p.m.
There will be a consolation bracket on Friday at Dick Siebert Field in Minneapolis with semifinals at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and the fifth-place game at 3 p.m.
This is the Elks’ fourth state tournament in baseball. The other state teams were in 1950, 1999 and 2003.