by Eric Oslund
It was youth night on Friday, May 12, when the Elk River Elks traveled on the road to face the Rogers Royals. Both programs used to share a youth program, but this was the first year it split apart.
Games between Elk River and Rogers always seem to be an exciting match up, no matter the sport, and no matter if one team is having a great season while the other is having a down year. It doesn’t matter. There is a rivalry between the two schools that always seems to bring out the best from both sides.
This game was no exception, as it stayed close for most of the night, with Rogers pulling away in the end to take it 8-4.
The Elks threw their No. 1 pitcher Haley Ullrich, while the Royals started with their No. 2 pitcher Kaitlynn Lloyd, and later brought in their No. 1 pitcher Melea Bruns to close out the game. Both teams were able to knock the ball around to start, but the Elks really seemed to cool off once Bruns entered the game.
“When the game was going we started hitting well, they were hitting well, it was kind of back and forth,” said Elk River head coach Stacey Sheetz. “Then once they went up 5-4, opted to put Melea in and it wasn’t that we couldn’t touch her, but we weren’t getting the same hits and we weren’t getting runners on base. And they continued to hit, and we kind of stopped. That has to do with Melea’s pitching, she’s a good pitcher.”
Bruns would only allow one hit over the final four innings, effectively shutting down the Elks offense.
But that one hit was a triple off the bat of an eighth grader, Annie Volkers, who also recorded a home run and a triple off Lloyd. She has been a bright spot since getting called up to varsity earlier in the season, and continues to impress the coaching staff in every game she plays.
“She honestly has been playing real well,” Sheetz said of Volkers. “Annie started the year on JV, but she wanted it. She talked to us multiple times about, ‘I really, really want to be on varsity. Please give me a chance.’ She wanted it so bad, and we knew it, but we needed to see how everything would fit and how it’d all work. Well, she ended up coming up because of an injury and a player being gone for a volleyball nationals. She ended up coming up and she has yet to waver since coming up… She’s given me no reason to take her out of the lineup, she’s the highest batting average right now as an eighth grader, and that’s saying a lot.”
While the 8-4 outcome appeared to be a bit of a blowout in Rogers favor, it was actually a close game up until the sixth inning. The two teams to be well matched, which should make for an exciting section tournament as these two will likely square off early on once again.