ROGERS — It took 10 innings for top-seeded Elk River to eliminate No. 3 seed Brainerd in Section 8-4A loser’s bracket final Thursday, June 10.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 10th of a 2-2 game, Elk River’s Allie Voit hit a sharp groundball back to Warriors’ pitcher Mya Tautges, who mistakenly threw to first instead of home allowing the winning run to score on a fielder’s choice.
Olivia Tautges started and pitched nine innings with 14 strikeouts.
“That’s by far the most she’s pitched this year and she’s coming off an ACL injury about eight months ago,” Warriors head coach Shane Jordan said. “For her to pitch as much as she did the last couple days is a testament to how tough and gritty she is. And she’s good. She’s a good softball player and a strong kid.”
Brainerd took the lead 2-1 in the top of ninth when senior Karlie Anderson hit a solo home run off Elks’ starter, Annie Volkers. The Warriors had a chance to add some insurance in the ninth inning, but left runners on second and third.
In the bottom of the ninth, Voit led off with a single off the center-field wall for the Elks. Sarah Lucht ran for Voit and got to second on a wild pitch and to third on a stolen base.
Still, Brainerd had Elk River down to its last strike before Kaylyn Breyen ripped a single up the middle off Olivia Tautges to tie the game.
“It was awesome how we responded,” Elk River head coach Dannielle Bloom said. “Brainerd is an amazing team and they fought just as hard, but we fought every pitch and came out on top.”
In the top of the 10th, Volkers sent Brainerd down one-two-three which would cap her 10-inning, 12-strikeout day in the circle for the Elks.
“She’s a competitor and battled every pitch,” Bloom said. “She put us on her back and she did it for us.”
Brainerd got a run off Volkers in the second inning. Kasia Kroll bunted for a single and advanced to second on a stolen base.
With two outs, Meghan Smith hit a single up the middle and scored Kroll from second by sliding under the tag of Elk River’s catcher to make it 1-0 Brainerd.
“The bottom of our lineup was great all day today,” Jordan said. “I originally only sent her because I saw an obstruction call by the umpire, who put the hand up right away. I think the ball beat her, but she made a great slide.”
The Warriors also notched two singles off Volkers in the first inning which was a confidence booster for them having struck out 18 times against her May 7 in the Warriors 9-0 loss to Elk River.
“Just getting on base, hitting the ball in play, getting base hits gave the rest of our kids confidence,” Jordan said. “We know we can play with anybody and we try to convince the kids they can play with anybody. To go from being struck out 18 times the last time we played them to getting nine hits is a testament to the kids.”
Anderson coupled her home run with a two-out triple in the third to be the only Warrior to have an extra-base hit.
“She had a great game today,” Jordan said. “Super proud of her. She’s been great all year and has been a great kid. She probably had the best game she’s had in a Warrior uniform today.”
Brainerd nearly took a 2-0 lead after Anderson’s triple when Kroll laid a bunt down and was out by half a step for the third out.
Elk River tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth. Nora Zak led it off for the Elks with a single. A sacrifice bunt got Zak to second. She got to third on a groundout and scored on a Greta Nelson two-out bloop single to right.
Josie Kappes was on base three times, which included two singles.
Elk River went on to play Rogers in the section championship needing to beat the Royals twice to get to state.
The Elks beat Rogers 4-2 in Game One to force a second game for the section title Friday, June 11.
Brainerd finished its season with a 20-5 record.
“I was proud of all the girls for playing their best softball at the end of the year,” Jordan said. “We talked for the last month about how we had more in us and that we hadn’t found our best softball yet. But after today, I can say we finished the season playing our best.”
Brainerd 2 9 3
Elk River 3 10 0
WP: Annie Volkers. LP: Mya Tautges. 2B: ER-Annie Volkers. 3B: Brd-Karlie Anderson. HR: Brd-Karlie Anderson.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.
Elk River 3, Warriors 2
Key: Elk River scratches winning run across in 10th inning.
Overall: Brd 20-5.