Elks with runner-up trophy 2021 VFW State tournament

Elk River 19-U VFW second baseman Kyle Mossengren (left), pitcher James Owens (holding trophy) and outfielder Carter Galante pose with the second-place trophy after Elk River's 4-2 loss to Grand Rapids in Game Two of the Minnesota VFW championship series along with the rest of the team. 

The Elk River 19-U team’s first state tournament appearance in a decade ended in heartbreak.

Elk River lost 2-0 and 4-2 to the Grand Rapids 19-U team in the championship series of the 2021 VFW 19-U state tournament on Sunday, Aug. 15, at Marcusen Park in Austin.

Elk River head coach Ryan Holmgren said both games were very competitive and entertaining.

“They threw their best guy at us in game one: Miles Gunderson,” Holmgren said. “He was good; a seven-inning shutout. He was one of their main guys for their [Grand Rapids High School] varsity team this spring as a sophomore. I thought our pitcher, Miles Hanson, did a great job. He’s the guy who threw the championship game of the District 7 tournament for us and beat a good Maple Grove team [8-3 on Tuesday, July 27, at Osseo High School], threw six strong innings there and did the same thing in the state championship game there for game one. Holding that team to two runs is quite the accomplishment. I was impressed. 

“That Grand Rapids team is tough. They battled. They’re scrappy. They look to put the ball in play. When there behind in counts, they make your pitchers work. We outhit them in the second game. We lost 4-2, but we had more hits [10] than they did [8]. We couldn’t get big hits in either of the games. We had runners on base. We had runners in scoring position. They did a much better job of getting the two-out hits than we did. That was the difference. That’s what I felt it came down to. Both teams played good defense. When you don’t score any, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to score a few, too.”

Offensive Player of the Series

Elk River catcher Andrew Palm had three hits and an RBI during the two-game series.

Defensive Player of the Series

Gunderson’s shutout kept Grand Rapids alive and forced a winner-take-all game two, which allowed Grand Rapids to capture the state title in game two.

Holmgren said he thought Elk River was going to see Gunderson at some point during the series.

“We knew we were in for a battle,” he said. “Obviously, good pitching like that is important in those types of games, and he proved that. That kid was a heck of a competitor. [He] made it tough on us to do anything offensively.

What’s Next

The Elks will look to return to the VFW State baseball tournament in 2022. Many of the players will also be playing for Holmgren on the Elk River varsity baseball team in 2022 as well. 

Load comments