Wolves face long way back

by Tom Coombe -

Ely’s high school baseball team is in unwelcome but unfamiliar territory.
The Timberwolves fell victim to an early-round playoff upset Tuesday in Virginia, with North Woods pulling out a 6-5 win and sending Section 7A’s top northern seed into the elimination round.
Ely, which opened tournament play earlier in the day with a 25-2 romp over Northeast Range, now faces a lengthy and difficult road back through the double-elimination tournament.
The Wolves (14-6) met Cherry after the Echo’s deadline in the first of six games Ely must win to survive and advance in the 7A tournament, which concludes June 6 at Duluth.
They faced a similar road two years ago, when they stormed back and won five straight to capture the program’s fourth state tournament berth of the decade.
“We’ve been here before,” said Ely Head Coach Frank Ivancich. “We just have to take it one game at a time and string some good outings together. We can’t look at the whole picture and just look at what’s in front of us. It’s still a wide-open tournament, with both number-one seeds in the losers’ bracket.”
A series of costly miscues cost the Wolves dearly against North Woods.
After striking for three runs in the bottom of the first, two on a single by junior Dalton Schreffler, the Grizzlies countered with three runs in the top of the second, aided by three Ely errors.
The Wolves fell behind 4-3 but a run-scoring hit by Tyler Housey knotted the game back up.
The tide turned in the top of the fourth, when North Woods scored twice with two outs, once on a double-steal and then on a passed ball.
Winning pitcher Daniel Crockett retired eight straight batters before giving way to Jake Hyppa, who tossed three innings of relief to gain the save.
The Wolves had chances in both the sixth and seventh innings but came up short.
A run came off the board in the sixth when an Ely runner was called out for leaving third base early on what would have been a sacrifice fly.
In the seventh, Lane Anderson and Mason Davis drew walks, while Nils DeRemee came up with a run-scoring hit to make it a 6-5 game.
Hyppa escaped further damage, coaxing a ground out to end the game and stranding two Wolves’ runners.
Housey finished with two hits for the Wolves and Schreffler knocked in two runs.
Trevor Mattson started and worked two-and-one-third innings on the mound before giving way to Bryce Longwell, who worked until the seventh. Dalton Schreffler finished up.
Defending champion South Ridge met North Woods Thursday while the Wolves were one of several teams in the elimination round.
They needed two victories to advance to reach Tuesday’s round at Wade Stadium in Duluth.
“Our pitching is still in very good shape and we have the arms to regroup, win a couple of games and get everyone rested for next week,” said Ivancich. “Now it’s just a matter of getting it done on the field.”
• The Wolves erupted for 12 runs in the bottom of the second, sending 18 batters to the plate, en route to a 25-2 win in the playoff opener against Northeast Range.
Housey had a huge day at the plate, going four-for-four with six runs batted in.
Davis added three hits while Mattson, Tjae Banks and Jacob Towley all added two hits.
Harry Simons, a freshman, fanned six Nighthawks batters and went all five innings on the mound.
• Mattson took the tough-luck loss May 23 as the Wolves dropped their regular season finale 4-2 to Nashwauk-Keewatin.
The Spartans took the lead for good in the sixth inning and averted Ely scoring threats in the final two frames, leaving the bases loaded in the seventh.
Mattson struck out eight and allowed six hits while going the distance.
At the plate, Mattson had two hits and Housey singled in a run.
• Longwell tossed a five-hit shutout earlier the same day as the Wolves blanked Mesabi East 12-0 in five innings.
Mattson was three-for-three with a double and three runs batted in, and sophomore Lane Anderson added two hits, including a run-scoring double.