Wolves tackle the unknown on the diamond

(EDITOR’S NOTE: this week the Echo previews Ely’s baseball and softball teams. Track to be featured next week)

by Tom Coombe -

The Ely Timbewolves are in unfamiliar territory.
For much the last decade, which has included four trips to the state tournament, the high school baseball team has gone into the season with more experience, pitching and depth than most of its Section 7A opponents.
That may not be the case during the 2019 season, which starts with Tuesday’s home game with 7A contender Chisholm.
Graduation took a heavy toll on an Ely roster that amassed more than 20 wins in 2018 and earned a third-place finish in the section.
Another returning starter switched sports, while several others missed parts of the summer season or didn’t participate at all.
That leaves more uncertainty than usual as the traditionally-strong Wolves begin a new season.
“There’s no question it’s going to be different,“ said Frank Ivancich, who has led Ely’s high school program since 2012. “We’ve got some younger guys who are going to get some playing time. Our depth is a little unknown, but at the same time I think it’s going to be a fun year to see these younger players develop.”
While Ivancich has some holes to fill, the Wolves have a few key players to build around.
They include seniors Tyler Housey and Trevor Mattson, both All-Arrowhead Conference and All-Section 7A picks last season.
Housey, a fourth-year starter, hit .438 as a junior and scored 43 runs while anchoring the top of the Ely order.
He’ll catch, play shortstop or patrol centerfield, adding versatility to the Wolves’ defense, and also fill a role on the Ely pitching staff.
The Wolves have an ace in Mattson, a lefty who has compiled 15 wins in his prep career.
Seven came last year, when he compiled an earned run average of 1.27 with 33 strikeouts.
Mattson, Housey and junior righthander Dalton Schreffler give the Wolves three experienced and capable arms.
“I think we’ve got a couple of pitchers, really two or three pitchers who can match up with any team in our section,” said Ivancich. “Trevor is obviously the most experience, but Dalton probably is our best athlete. If he has a good year, he’s certainly the type of player that can carry us for awhile.”

Schreffler, Ely’s starting shortstop, had 25 hits and 26 runs batted in, even after missing several games to injury last spring. He hit at a .347 clip.
Mattson drove in a team-high 40 runs in 2018 while hitting .363. He will play first base when not on the mound.
Junior Nils DeRemee is back at second base while another junior, Tjae Banks, will step into the outfield after a strong summer.
Another junior, Bryce Longwell, is back but recovering from recent knee surgery. The righthander could add another strong arm to the pitching staff and a strong bat to the lineup.
Sophomores Will Davies and Lane Anderson could step into the Ely lineup, while seniors Alex Motes and Ryan Quick are also in the mix for playing time, along with junior Mitch Peterson.
Ivancich pointed to freshmen Harry Simons and Jacob Towley as potential additions to the pitching staff, while several others are vying for playing time including sophomore Cam Kienitz and freshmen Mason Davis, Bryce Fairchild, Eddie Prijatel, Chase Sandberg and Alec Cook.
“We have some ninth graders who are going to have to give us some innings,” said Ivancich. “We’ll fill in with guys who will get some experience.”
The lineup will have a new look, with the graduation of multi-year starters such as Gage Merhar and Carter Gaulke, and junior centerfielder Luke Olson moving to the school’s track team, but Ivancich said he is optimistic about his team’s chances.
“Like every year our goals are to get back to the final four of the section and make a run at the state tournament,” said Ivancich, who has taken Ely to state in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017. “Hopefully if we learned anything from last spring is we are going to have to go out and work hard and not take anything for granted. Like every year we will have a target on our back, but I think we have some pitching and a lineup that will have a few guys who can hit some doubles.”
Ivancich, who is assisted by Cory Lassi, Aaron Donais and Paul Kienitz, welcomed nearly 40 players out for baseball in grades 7-12.
The schedule was put on hold this week because of weather and field conditions, but the Wolves hope that Veterans Memorial Field is dry in time for Tuesday’s scheduled matchup with the Bluestreaks, who could contend in 7A.
The docket includes nine home dates, with three the weekend of May 17-18,when Ely hosts the sixth annual Veterans Memorial Showcase, an eight-team event.