Two losses to Buffalo in the 2019 Class 4A, Section 8 tournament denied Elk River a place in the state tournament for the first time since 2013.
Annie Volkers was a sophomore on that squad. Now a senior, she's playing as if she wants to end that streak this season.
Volkers is hitting over .500 with nine RBIs and has helped lead Elk River (7-1, 6-0) to a No. 8-4A ranking. But it's in the pitching circle where she is most influential. Volkers is 5-1 with two shutouts — her only loss came in a 1-0 decision to No. 1-4A Stillwater on April 17 — with 88 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 41 innings pitched.
She gets plenty of support from a sophomore-heavy lineup that has five players with eight or more runs batted in. Greta Nelson has 12 hits, one home run and 14 RBIs; Allie Voit has 11 RBIs and Karen Balabon has eight RBIs. Senior Avery Hills has eight RBIs to go with three home runs.
Champlin Park's Alyssa Blaska and Kiarra Harris will challenge Volkers and the Elks on Thursday. Blaska, a junior shortstop, is having a solid season. She's hitting .500 with three doubles, two triples, a home run and 10 RBIs. Harris, a senior, has a home run and nine RBIs. Riley Leonhardt, 4-2 with a 2.53 ERA, is Champlin Park's top pitcher.
The Rebels (4-4, 3-2) are coming off consecutive losses last week.