LEAGUE CHAMPS! - Ely’s age 14U baseball team won both the IRB regular season title and the 13-team tournament that wrapped up last Sunday at Veterans Memorial Field. In the title game, Ely beat Rock Ridge I 11-1. Pictured are: (with trophy) Easton Ivancich, (front, l-r): Christian Schmidt, Tyde Brecke, Evan Leeson, Owen Marolt, Grant Chittum, Hunter Halbakken; (back): assistant coach Derek Johnson, assistant coach Joe Majerus, Sean Merriman, Aksel Skustad, Max Brandriet, Summit Smith, Drew Johnson, Stig Majerus, head coach Kevin Marolt, not pictured Maddex Moskowitz
by Tom Coombe
Complete and total domination.
That’s an apt description for what Ely’s age 14 and under baseball team did last weekend, when it capped a brilliant regular season with an even more dominant postseason run.
In the span of three days, Ely won three games by a combined score of 32-2 to win the program’s first-ever Iron Range Baseball league title.
Sunday’s title game was barely a contest, as Ely cruised past Rock Ridge I 11-0 in five innings before a festive and good-sized audience at Veterans Memorial Field.
Hunter Halbakken, who captured two of Ely’s three tournament wins, held the visitors to one hit through four frames and was in control on the mound.
The top-seeded Ely team, which finished 13-1, ended a scoreless deadlock with four runs in the bottom of the third and erupted for seven more runs in the fourth.
The margin brought an early end to the game via the 10-run mercy rule, and Drew Johnson came on to replace Halbakken and set down Rock Ridge without a hit or a threat in the fifth.
Johnson singled and scored Ely’s first run, with Halbakken driving in two runs on a hit down the left field line and Stig Majerus adding a run-scoring double. Aksel Skustad’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0.
In the fourth, Ely sent 13 batters to the plate, with Owen Marolt, Halbakken, Sean Merriman, Evan Leeson and Skustad all coming up with run-scoring hits.
For the contest, Marolt was three-for-four, while Johnson, Halbakken, Merriman and Leeson all had two hits.
Ely reached the title game with a Saturday night, 10-1 decision against Rock Ridge III.
A four-run second inning opened things up, with Johnson clearing the bases on a triple to right.
At the top of Ely’s order, Tyde Brecke reached base four times, scored three runs and had a hit.
Skustad scored twice and both Leeson and Chittum had hits.
Halbakken singled in one run and knocked in another with a ground out.
Rock Ridge was kept at bay by Halbakken, who went the first four innings on the mound, allowing one hit and fanning seven.
Marolt fired three innings to close the show.
He was nicked for a run in the fifth but struck out the side in the sixth.
In the opening round, Ely downed local rival Vermilion Range 11-1 in six innings.
Majerus turned in a stellar performance on the pitchers’ mound.
The 14-year-old lefty took a no-hitter into the fifth and gave up just one hit overall, striking out nine. Halbakken came on in the sixth and struck out three.
The game was tight until the fourth when Ely struck for five runs.
Leeson had a run-scoring hit and Johnson ripped a two-run double.
Johnson went three-for-four with three runs scored and all of his hits went for extra bases.
Brecke scored twice, Merriman contributed two hits and Halbakken was two-for-three.
• Hibbing I topped Rock Ridge III for third place while Rock Ridge II defeated Hibbing II 5-4 in Sunday’s consolation title game.
Mt. Iron squeaked past Vermilion Range 4-3 to claim seventh-place, while the C Bracket, which included five teams that lost in the play-in round, was won by Greenway, 12-9 over Mesabi East in nine innings.