by Eric Oslund
The Elk River legion post 112 baseball team traveled south to the Osseo Memorial Field for the first round of their district tournament at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 19. Their opponent for that opening game was St. Michael, and the Elks were ready for a little revenge.
St. Michael-Albertville was the team that ended their year in school ball, and had already beat them once this summer by a score of 10-4, but the Elks knew they were beatable. Both of those losses had one thing in common – errors – so they knew they had a shot at winning if they could just clean up their defense.
And after the game, the scoreboard read that the Elks had only recorded one error, though, no one could seem to remember where it came from.
“We played well defensively,” head coach Tucker Morrell began. “There were a couple of balls where they got lucky. Dinky hits where it’s kind of like maybe we could have made the play but we didn’t. Did we have an error? One error the board has down, I don’t know if we did though. We played well defensively, good with that.”
What the coach wasn’t good with was his team’s approach at the plate. They had six hits in the game, but a majority of those were infield singles, or a ground ball that snuck through the infield. There were probably only two well-hit balls, which is different than it’s been for most of the season with this team.
It wasn’t until recently that the bats had cooled off.
“You see us falling behind in the counts but it’s not because we’re just taking strikes. It’s because we’re swinging at balls,” Morrell began. “We’re swinging at balls early in the count and then we’re taking strikes later in the count, which is totally backwards. I don’t understand where it comes from, but that’s what I saw today. I think we were just swinging at bad pitches. We didn’t know what we were coming after and put ourselves in a hole, everybody.”
But because of their defense stepping up and playing at a high level, Post 112 remained in the game and were only down 3-0 heading into the sixth – nine innings are played in the legion tournament. All they needed were a couple things to go their way and they could sneak away with a first-round upset.
The first thing to go their way was they had the top of their lineup do up in the sixth, right where they wanted to be.
Wyatt Morrell led them off and was able to knock a ground ball between the first and second basemen, and into the outfield. Then Nate Horn riffled a ball back at the pitcher, who was unable to handle it, and suddenly the Elks had runners on first and second with no outs. You could feel the momentum start to shift into their favor and then Cole Daleiden ripped a double down the right field line, scoring Wyatt.
They made it a 3-1 game, had runners on second and third with no outs, and the heart of their lineup coming up to bat. The Elks couldn’t have asked to be in a better place, but then their four and five hitters would strike out, and their six hitter would line out to the left fielder, ending the scoring threat and completely taking the wind out of their sails.
“That’s when you saw it,” Coach Morrell said afterwards. “The energy came right out. They took our hope from us and we didn’t get it back after that point.”
To add insult to injury, St. Michael followed up that half inning by scoring two more runs themselves in the bottom of the sixth. They would then go on to defeat the Elks 7-2, knocking their opponents into the losers bracket.