by Eric Oslund
June 20 marked the start to a 9-day stretch for the Elk River Post 112 legion baseball team where they would end up playing 11 games. A brutal string of days for everyone involved, as not only were the games physically and mentally draining for the players, but a lot of them were also involved in other sports, which just added to taxing effort.
Their final game of this stretch was on June 29, and the Elks made their way south to play Osseo, a district opponent. And by the end of the extra-inning loss, it was clear the boys were ready for their vacation over the extended-holiday weekend.
“The team is really excited for the break,” head coach Tucker Morrell said after the loss to Osseo. “You could tell, even after last night and that loss there. They’re tired. They are mentally drained. Physically, we just needed a break especially since a lot of the other kids are doing hockey, football and so many different sports. We just needed a break to get away from it all.”
When looking back on the 11 games the Elks had just played, it was hard for Morrell to evaluate is team.
It all started with back-to-back losses to St. Michael and Centnnial by scores of 10-4 and 12-2, respectfully. Things weren’t looking good as they were preparing to head to a tournament in Alexandria, but then a 5-4 win against Andover seemed to kick start the team heading into the weekend.
They ended up going 4-2 in the tournament, finishing in second place. Their only two losses came to Wayzata, once in pool play and once in the championship.
The team was looking to carry the momentum from that tournament into the finals games of this stretch, but they would end up falling to Anoka by a score of 3-0, and then to Osseo 4-3 in extra innings.
“If you told me we took second in Alex I would have been like, ‘Yes, that’s awesome,’ because there were legitimately eight to 10 solid teams there,” Morrell began. “But if you would have told me we were 7-6 I would have been like, ‘I don’t know, I guess I’ll take it, but I wish we would have been better.’”
With the break marking the halfway point in the legion baseball season, the Elks are now looking to finish strong. They’re currently sitting in the middle of their district – record wise – but they know losses to St. Michael, Osseo and Anoka are really going to hurt them when it comes time to seed the teams.
A good finish, and some big district wins, should do the trick and help give them a higher seed, and they already know what needs to be done to do that. Clean up their defense.
Their bats have been good for a majority of the season, but every loss seems to have something in common – errors and giving up unearned runs.
“It’s been that way. When we have not fielded well, we have lost. The games we’ve played defense, we won,” Morrell explained. “You saw it again (against Osseo), I think one of them was technically earned, but they should have all been unearned. Even that last one in the eighth inning, just a simple ground ball to first and our pitcher didn’t cover. You’ve got to do the little things right to win, especially in a game where we play a lot of close games.”
Morrell has been trying a number of different players at positions, especially at second base and short stop, just looking for someone to step up and grab a hold of the starting spot. But until that happens the cycle will likely continue in games as practices as they begin to try and set their lineup for the district tournament.
But before districts begin, the Elks have a little more work to do, and it all starts this weekend at Irondale as they compete in the Gopher Classic. These players have always seemed to play their best in tournaments, and their head coach is hoping that can be the case once again.
“That’s what I’m hoping for,” he began. “I’ve been around these guys for a long time, since they were young – 10, 11, or 12. They always seem to play better in tournament play, so that’s what we’re hoping for when we get to districts because there’s not a team we can’t beat, but every single team in the district can beat us too. So that’s the thing, we need to get a little more consistent and hopefully get hot at the right time. We could definitely make a push. The seniors want to make a push. They’re disappointed with how the how school season ended and they want to finish strong here.”