Wolves fall a game short in section playoffs

by Tom Coombe
South Ridge had its ace in the hole and the Ely Timberwolves ran out of aces.
That was the story late in the evening of June 6 at Duluth’s Wade Stadium, where the Panthers repeated as Section 7A high school baseball champions, riding the pitching of Mason Lane to a 9-0 victory in section finals.
Ely, which had won five straight elimination games, including a 9-8 win over the Panthers earlier in the day to force the winner-take-all showdown, went deep into its pitching staff in the finale.
South Ridge (20-6), meanwhile, had Lane rested and ready to go and the junior delivered, holding the Wolves to just two hits and recording nine strikeouts.
The Panthers put the game away early, scoring five times in the second inning against freshman starter Harry Simons and putting the game away.
The loss ended a stellar run through the playoffs for the Wolves, who finished 19-7.
Ely pitchers threw 23 consecutive scoreless innings at one point, with senior Trevor Mattson and juniors Bryce Longwell and Dalton Schreffler notching shutouts.
Longwell and senior Tyler Housey combined on a seven-hitter in the first game of the championship series, but South Ridge was in the driver’s seat after entering the finals as the unbeaten team.
The Panthers needed just one win to clinch a state berth while Ely needed to sweep.
“We were a little out of gas and out of pitching,” said Ely Head Coach Frank Ivancich. “South Ridge was in a good position and they had their ace ready to go, and we had to put some young players in tough spots.”
South Ridge jumped early, taking advantage of walks, errors and some key hits to build a 5-0 lead.
Lane helped his own cause with two runs batted in, while Jaxson Bennett added a two-run single in the fourth against freshman reliever Bryce Fairchild.
Lane finished with two hits and Locan Young added two RBI for South Ridge.
Ely’s most effective pitcher was freshman Jacob Towley, who worked three frames and allowed a run.
Ely, which blanked both Cook County and Carlton earlier in the week to reach the 7A finals, made its third trip to Duluth in as many days June 7 and opened with its best hitting performance of the tournament.
The Wolves scored single runs in the first four innings and Mattson’s bases-clearing double keyed a five-run fifth.
Ely led 9-2 and held on in the last three innings as the Panthers closed the gap.
Housey finished with two hits and two runs batted in for the Wolves, and worked out of trouble in the sixth and seventh frames to gain the save.
Schreffler also ripped two hits and scored twice for the Wolves, who started only two seniors - Mattson and Housey.
“This group got a ton of experience and really got better as the season went on, which is all you can ask out of a team,” said Ivancich. “We responded and pitched well after an early playoff loss and I think we have some guys who can get us back into the same position we were this year. If we go out and have a good summer and improve, there’s no reason why we can’t contend again next spring.”