Legion fourth in substate; Post 248 rallies to beat Taconite, but falls short against Esko

A THROW ACROSS THE DIAMOND for Ely senior Thomas Montana, who also had three hits in Post 248’s Legion playoff victory against Taconite July 27 at Veterans Memorial Field. Photo by Eric Sherman

Esko proved to be the Ely American Legion baseball team’s ultimate nemesis.
Twice in three days, the Eskomos downed Post 248 in the Division II Northeast Substate Tournament, the last coming in an 8-2, July 27, elimination-round decision that ended Ely’s season.
After staying alive in the tournament with wins over Virginia and Taconite, Ely came up short against Esko, which also beat the hosts 4-1 in the opening round, and settled for a fourth-place tournament finish.
.Ely ended the year with a record of 17-13 but had its share of highlights, including a come-from-behind 8-4 victory over Taconite just hours before the last defeat.
“We made a little bit of a run,” said Ely Head Coach Tom Coombe. “To finish fourth in this tournament is a nice accomplishment, especially when you look at who was in front of us. We were the only Class A school in the tournament and we were second among teams from our district. We have a lot to be proud of.”
Wadena, one of several new entrants into a realigned Northeast Substate, beat Pierz 5-4 in Saturday’s title game to advance to this weekend’s state tournament at Pelican Rapids.
Ely was looking to make a run through the elimination round and started with a 4-2 win over Virginia July 25.
Two days later, Taconite jumped out to an early lead against Ely starter Trevor Mattson.
The Range Area champions took a 2-0 advantage through three innings, but Ely sliced the lead in half in the fourth, when Gage Merhar singled and scored from second on Mattson’s fielders choice.
Taconite answered with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, as Christian Neumayer’s two-out, two-run double made it 4-1.
In the fifth, Ely clawed back with Trea Stickler reaching on an error and scoring on a wild pitch.
Taconite seemed to escape further trouble when Merhar’s deep shot to center was chased down for an out.
Ely missed an opportunity, but would get another in the top of the sixth.
This time, a series of two-out hits turned the game around.
The biggest was by Tjae Banks, who came in as a pinch hitter and lined a single to right to score both Matt Schultz and Mitch Peterson, tying the game.
Thomas Montana, who went three-for-three, followed with a single to left that put Post 248 ahead to stay.
After a Carter Gaulke single, Tyler Housey singled to right and the ball got by the Taconite right fielder, allowing both Montana and Gaulke to score for a 7-4 lead.
Schultz’s run-scoring hit closed out Ely’s biggest rally of the year.
“You look back and we got five straight hits with two outs,” said Coombe. “That’s the kind of rally that makes a season, and it started with some guys at the bottom of our order and a pinch-hitter. You don’t get any bigger hits than the one Tjae got for us.”
Taconite was shell-shocked, and Housey came on in relief of Mattson and didn’t allow a run in the last two innings. Mattson scattered six hits and struck out three to get the win.
At the plate, both Schultz and Montana had three hits and Housey wound up with two.
Ely banged out 10 hits in the second game, but only scored twice against Esko’s Carter Northey.
Esko, meanwhile scored two unearned runs in the fourth inning and plated two more in the fifth to put things away.
Merhar went three-for-four in his final game in an Ely uniform, while Schultz and Stickler had two hits apiece.