Junior Legion falls in extras

Virginia escapes with two outs in seventh, goes on to win in eight

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s Junior Legion baseball team had Virginia on the ropes but couldn’t deliver the knockout punch in its quest for a playoff upset.
One strike away from winning in the bottom of the seventh, Post 248 was unable to close it out as Virginia rallied to score the tying run, then added a run in the bottom of the eighth to pull out a 6-5 win at Veterans Memorial Field.
A big crowd at the local ballpark, including many who came out for the Veterans Night tribute, cheered the sixth-seeded host team on as it looked to knock off number-three Virginia.
A three-run double in the top of the second inning gave Ely a 3-0 lead, but Virginia scrapped back and eventually led 4-3.
Post 248 misfired on some scoring chances, but came through in the top of the seventh.
Preston Hines delivered the key blow, a two-out, two-run single to right that put Ely up 5-4.
But two more runners were stranded, creating an opportunity for Virginia to counter.
Virginia, which swept Ely during the regular season, made the most of its chance.
Winning pitcher Mason Bartlett came through on an 0-2 count with two outs in the seventh, connecting on a line drive that just evaded the glove of Ely’s Drew Marolt.
Reliever Elliot Levens worked out of further trouble and Ely was unable to cash in during the top of the eighth despite putting runners at second and third with two outs.
In the bottom of the eighth, leadoff man Gavin Dahl reached base and eventually got to third with two outs.
Dahl then scampered home on a wild pitch to give Virginia the walkoff win, and deflating an Ely team that pushed hard for an upset.
Mathias finished with three runs batted in and three stolen bases for Ely, and Hines had two hits including his two-run single.
Both Sam Leeson and Logan Loe singled and scored runs.
Loe started and worked the first three innings on the mound, giving up four hits and striking out one.
Marolt followed and was on the hill for three innings, allowing two hits.
Levens gave up two hits and struck out three in an inning-and-two-thirds of pitching.
• Virginia advanced to meet number-two Esko in a winners’ bracket game Friday, while Proctor, a 7-4 winner over Eveleth, will play Cherry, which beat Cook County 5-1 in another winners’ bracket tilt.
Ely was slated to play Taconite in the elimination round at 3 p.m. Friday, with a win moving Post 248 into an 8 p.m. game with either Proctor or Cherry.
The tournament continues with three games Saturday and the title game is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday.
The champion advances to the state tournament next weekend at Montevideo.