Ely stays alive in Legion playoffs; Post 248 squeaks past Virginia in Legion elimination round

Runs were at a premium Wednesday, as pitching dominated on the opening day of the American Legion Division II Substate Tournament.
Host Ely scored just enough to stay alive, edging Virginia 4-2 in the elimination round after suffering a 4-1 defeat to Esko earlier in the day.
Post 248 had only eight hits in two contests, but none was bigger than Tyler Housey’s second-inning, two-run triple against Virginia.
The hit provided the difference in the ballgame and gave Ely some cushion to fend off a late Virginia rally.
Senior Gage Merhar got the last two outs in the seventh inning for Zach Anderson, who scattered eight hits and fanned seven en route to his fourth win of the summer.
Ely (16-12) still faces a long-road in the double-elimination tournament, starting with Friday’s game against fellow Range contender Taconite.
A win puts Post 248 against either Proctor or Esko later that day, while Pierz and Wadena went unbeaten on the opening day.
“It’s a tough road back, but we’re in the hunt,” said Ely Head Coach Tom Coombe. “We got very good pitching on the first day from both Zach and Carter Gaulke, and we’re still alive even though we didn’t hit much at all. If we can get our bats warmed up, we can make a run yet in this thing.”
Ely is the only Class A high school in a field made up of Class AA programs, and the new substate format has brought in teams from outside the area, including defending state champion Piez.
Esko has been a district heavyweight in recent years, and pitcher James LeGarde shook off a shaky first inning and held down the hosts in the opening round.
Trevor Mattson’s single plated Gaulke with the game’s first runs, but Ely couldn’t put much together the rest of the way.
Only one more runner reached as far as second base as LeGarde finished with a five-hitter.
Esko committed two seventh inning errors, but LeGarde wiggled out of trouble.
Gaulke allowed sixh hits and struck out eight, but Esko scored single runs in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings. Just two of the runs were earned.
Ely struggled at the plate in the nightcap, but four second-inning walks, combined with Housey’s triple, provided all the offense the winners would need.
Anderson took a shutout into the fifth, but Virginia scored twice.
The visitors put two runners aboard in the seventh, but Merhar got a pop-up and a strikeout to end the game.
The tournament continues Saturday with the title game at 3 p.m. A second game, if necessary, would take place Sunday.
Range Playoffs
Ely emerged from last weekend’s Range Area Playoffs with the number-two seed out of the division.
Victories over International Falls and host Virginia were sandwiched around a 7-1 loss to Taconite on Sunday.
Gaulke pitched into the fifth and Housey got the last seven outs without allowing a run or a hit in Saturday’s 8-6 triumph against International Falls.
Housey’s two-run double capped off a five-run third inning.
Gaulke, Luke Olson, Nils DeRemee and Brett Rosendahl all had two hits for the winners.
Three Taconite pitchers combined to limit Ely to two hits, while the winners scored four unearned runs in the fourth to open a tight game.
Ely bounced back against Virginia, as Mattson worked four scoreless innings and Housey finished up.
Matt Schultz had two hits and two runs batted in, while Housey went three-for-four and Gaulke added two hits.