Wolves win Arrowhead, head into playoffs

by Tom Coombe

With a conference championship already in tow, Ely’s high school baseball team begins its quest for postseason glory this week.<BR><BR>The Timberwolves take on Duluth Marshall Wednesday (5 p.m.) at Grand Rapids, kicking off the Section 7AA tournament.<BR><BR>Ely heads into the playoffs on the heels of the program’s first Arrowhead Conference title in three years.<BR><BR>Wednesday, the Wolves downed Cook 10-6 to wrap up the league title and a perfect 7-0 mark in conference play.<BR><BR>The following night, Ely downed area rival Nashwauk-Keewatin 9-6, ending the regular season with a three-game winning streak and a 15-4 overall record.<BR><BR>The Wolves, who also defeated International Falls last week, may be peaking at exactly the right time.<BR><BR>Senior Josh Weckman picked up his seventh win on the mound in Monday’s 3-1 decision at International Falls, while junior lefty Tim Scott had one of his best outings of the year at Nashwauk-Keewatin.<BR><BR>The Wolves have also shored up their defense and warmed up their bats, clubbing 25 hits in their last two contests.<BR><BR>“We’ve swung the bats really well the last two games,” said Ely Head Coach Frank Ivancich. “Even our outs were hard outs, and that’s a good sign.”<BR><BR>Ely compiled its best record in Ivancich’s three-year tenure despite a beefed-up schedule and a move up to Class AA.<BR><BR>After four years in Class A, the state’s smallest enrollment division, realignment placed the Wolves in AA this spring and the team has been up to the challenge.<BR><BR>Ely is seeded second in the north half of 7AA, behind only Virgina, and figures to be one of several schools with a shot at the section crown.<BR><BR>“I feel good about the season,” said Ivancich. “To go 15-4 with the way we upgraded our schedule, that’s an excellent record. No matter what happens I‘m proud of the way they have played and the way they approached practice. A lot of hard work by a lot of guys went into this.”<BR><BR>While Weckman (7-0, four saves) and Scott have given the Wolves a solid one-two pitching punch all season long, Ely has shown improvement both in the field and at the plate during the stretch run.<BR><BR>The Wolves played error-free ball Monday, as Weckman scattered six hits and threw just 77 pitches in a complete-game effort against the Broncos.<BR><BR>He got all the offense he needed in the first.<BR><BR>Senior outfielder Aaron Thom, who has eight hits in his last 10 at bats, led off the game with a solo home run against losing pitcher Brett Bahr. Later in the frame, Weckman launched a two-run shot for a 3-0 lead.<BR><BR>The Broncos (8-9-1) scraped across a run in the seventh against Weckman, but that was it.<BR><BR>Ely 10, Cook 6<BR><BR>Thom was four-for-four as the Wolves opened up a big lead and then hung on against the Little Gophers.<BR><BR>Colin Moberly picked up the pitching win, with Weckman working the last three frames to get the save.<BR><BR>Ely 9, Nashwauk-Keewatin 6<BR><BR>Thursday’s game followed a similar pattern, as the Wolves used a high-powered offense to take a 9-1 lead, then staved off a late Spartans rally.<BR><BR>Thom and Kevin Pope both went three-for-four for the Wolves, while Tony Carlson, Kai Bowen and Cory Lassi all added two hits each.<BR><BR>David Urbas had the key early blow, a three-run homer in the top of the third that gave the Wolves a 4-0 lead.<BR><BR>Thom’s two-run single in the fourth added to the Ely lead. In the sixth, Thom, Pope and Lassi had run-scoring hits to make it 9-1.<BR><BR>N-K (14-6) stormed back in the sixth against Scott, rattling off five hits and scoring five times to make it 9-6.<BR><BR>That’s when Ivancich turned to Weckman, and Ely’s ace bailed the squad out of the jam and retired all four hitters he faced.<BR><BR>Scott won for the fifth time this spring, allowing seven hits and striking out seven in five and two-thirds innings.<BR><BR>“He was pretty tough,” Ivancich said of Scott. “It may have been the best he’s thrown this year.”<BR><BR>• Virginia, Ely, International Falls and Proctor have the top four seeds in the north half of 7AA.<BR><BR>In the south, Mora, Hermantown, Esko and Hinckley are the top four teams.<BR><BR>After first-round play Wednesday, the north and south cross over in the 7AA bracket.<BR><BR>The winner of the Ely-Duluth Marshall game goes to Hinckley for second round action Thursday. If Ely wins its first two games, it would start double-elimination play Thursday night.<BR><BR>The 7AA tournament includes three games at Ely Thursday, although those contests involve teams in the bracket opposite the Wolves. Game times are 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m.<BR><BR>The tournament continues at Wade Stadium in Duluth on June 8.