Wolves hope for rebound

Numerous starters back for baseball team, which opens on Saturday

by Tom Coombe
After a void one spring and an uncharacteristic one to follow, the Ely Timberwolves are hoping for a return to normal on the baseball diamond in 2022.
The 2020 season was lost entirely to the Covid-19 pandemic while last year, a young Ely team took its lumps and finished 9-11, the first losing season in more than a decade for a Wolves team that had been to the Section 7A final four in five of the previous six seasons.
But thanks to that 2021 campaign and a busy summer, the Wolves are more battle-tested and experienced than they were a season ago.
Saturday’s season-opener against Rock Ridge, set for the Twin Cities suburb of Elko, will begin to answer some questions for longtime coach Frank Ivancich, who begins his 21st season in charge of the program.
Ely returns several starters and has experience both on the field and on the mound, but it may be a group that needs to learn how to win.
One of several returning seniors for the Wolves is Harry Simons, who earned All-Arrowhead recognition last season while compiling a 2.29 earned run average and notching 37 strikeouts.
Simons will head a staff that includes fellow senior Jacob Towley (two wins in 2021) and juniors Logan Loe and Gunnar Hart, among others.
All four got plenty of varsity experience in 2021, as did senior pitcher Bryce Fairchild.
At the plate, the Wolves figure to be lead by all-conference honoree Erron Anderson.
A junior, Anderson plays first base for the Wolves and hit .328 with 15 runs batted in.
Simons hit .347, Towley had a home run and nine runs batted in and senior Chase Sandberg came on strong at the plate late in the high school season and during American Legion baseball in the summer.
The Wolves figure to have one of the better outfields in Section 7A, with seniors Eddie Prijatel (.333) and Mason Davis returning as well as junior Joey Bianco, who hit .400 during the summer in Legion ball.
Hart and junior Preston Hines also figure into the mix, along with junior Jason Kerntz.
Loe could settle into a middle infield spot for the Wolves, as could freshman shortstop Caid Chittum, who got some late-season starts as an eighth-grader.
Behind the plate the Wolves should get a boost from sophomore Drew Marolt, who will also figure into the pitching rotation.
Depth may not be an issue for the Wolves, who have an abundance of players and 47 participants overall in grades 7-12, the most of any Ely athletic program.
This weekend’s game against Rock Ridge, a combination of the Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert programs, poses a strong test right out of the gate for the Wolves.
Ely was set to scrimmage at New Prague Friday as the Wolves traveled south in search of a dry field.
Tuesday’s home opener with Littlefork-Big Falls will almost certainly be postponed because of field conditions and the schedule becomes busy in May, including the annual Veterans Showcase Tournament here May 20-21.
The Wolves join a group of contenders in 7A hoping to challenge perennial powerhouse South Ridge, which was won the last three section championships.
Ivancich is aided by Max Gantt, Jim Wittrup, Paul Kienitz and Derek Johnson.