Wolves suffer 7A upsets; Carlton, South Ridge end bid for third straight state tourney berth

by Tom Coombe -

For the Ely Timberwolves, the tables were turned.
A year after a young Ely team stunned heavily-favored Deer River to win the Section 7A high school baseball title, the Wolves stumbled in the role of section favorite and saw their season come to an early end in the section semifinals.
South Ridge scored five times in the bottom of the third inning Tuesday and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to defeat the Wolves 5-4 at Nashwauk.
Ely, which finished 21-5, was sent into the elimination round five days earlier when Carlton rallied for a 10-5 victory at Cohasset.
Carlton, the sixth-seeded team in the south half of 7A, met South Ridge Thursday at Superior to decide the section crown while the Wolves were on the outside looking in.
Ely was seeking a third straight state tournament berth and was ranked among the top-five teams in Class A
“We had our chances,” said Ely Head Coach Frank Ivancich. “But it was different this year. There was a lot more pressure being the favorite and we didn’t play as loose as we did last year.”
After a pair of easy victories to open tournament play, Ely seemed headed for a third on May 31, but Carlton erased a 4-0 deficit with three runs in the fourth inning and six more in the fifth.
The Wolves needed a miracle rally in the seventh to get past Silver Bay 7-6 later that day, and Trevor Mattson notched his seventh pitching win of the season in a 13-3, six-inning drubbing of Deer River to open Tuesday’s action.
That set the stage for a rematch with South Ridge, which suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 loss of its own to Carlton in Tuesday’s winners’ bracket final.
Ely upset the Panthers 5-4 in a 2017 playoff tilt in Duluth, and this year’s battle had the same final score with a different victor.
The Wolves drew first blood, with Tyler Housey scoring on Gage Merhar’s first-inning sacrifice fly and Nils DeRemee turning a pair of stolen bases and a throwing error into a run.
South Ridge countered by sending 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the third, and scoring all five of its runs with two outs.
Nick Carlson’s double tied the game, and a pair of Ely errors extended the frame and gave South Ridge a 5-2 lead.
The Wolves answered back with a run in the fourth but left the bases loaded.
Ely put two runners in scoring position in the sixth, but winning pitcher Jaxson Bennett got out of trouble with a strikeout
Fellow eighth-grader Aaron Bennett came on to pitch for the Panthers in the seventh, and he struggled with control.
Two walks and a hit batsmen loaded the bases, and Thomas Montana’s bases-loaded walk made it a one-run game.
Bennett weathered the storm, striking out the next Ely batter and coaxing a ground ball to preserve the win.
Senior Dylan Kienitz suffered the pitching loss while Merhar worked three innings of scoreless relief.
Ely was held to just four hits.
Earlier in the day, Kienitz and Carter Gaulke had two hits each and the Wolves took advantage of 11 free passes in a lopsided win over Deer River.
Mattson worked five innings to pick up the win while senior Cody Davis tossed an inning of scoreless relief.
Ely nearly didn’t make it to Tuesday, after yielding four runs in the top of the seventh against Silver Bay.
That game the Mariners had a 6-5 lead, and they recorded two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh in the May 31 game at Cohasset.
But the Wolves weren’t quite done. Both Gaulke and Davis worked two-out walks, and the Mariners misplayed a Housey fly ball allowing both runners to score.
Davis picked up the win in relief of starter Dalton Schreffler, who gave up three hits before leaving the game in the seventh.