Ely knocked off in 7A semis
THIRD PLACE IN 7A - Members of Ely’s high school baseball team include (front, l-r): Alex Merriman, Ben Leeson, Jack Davies, Hunter Halbakken; (middle, l-r) Caid Chittum, Elliot Levens, Zander Lislegard, Drew Marolt, Deegan Richards, Sam Leeson; (back, l-r) Head Coach Frank Ivancich, Drew Johnson, Blake Schaller, Joey Bianco, Erron Anderson, Preston Hines, Logan Loe, Assistant Coach Max Gantt
South Ridge holds off seventh-inning rally; Wolves finish third in section
by Tom Coombe
South Ridge has proven to be a formidable obstacle for Ely’s high school baseball season.
Twice in less than a week, the Panthers downed the Timberwolves, including a season-ending 5-3 defeat in Tuesday night’s Section 7A semifinals.
Ely came up empty after loading the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh, as Panthers senior dug deep and recorded three straight outs to end the game and put his team into Thursday’s title tilt with Cherry.
The Wolves, who finished 16-9, lost to South Ridge in a winners’ bracket clash on June 1 but rebounded with close wins against Mt. Iron-Buhl and Silver Bay to set up the rematch.
But South Ridge (20-4), which was coming off a loss of its own to Cherry earlier Tuesday, had four first-inning hits and took advantage of a couple of misplayed bunts to take a 4-0 lead on the artificial turf at the new Rock Ridge School near Eveleth.
Ely fought back, with Deegan Richards’ two-run double in the fourth closing the gap to 4-3.
South Ridge got an insurance run to take a two-run lead, but Ely reliever Hunter Halbakken worked out of further trouble in the bottom of the sixth.
That set the stage for the seventh, as back-to-back base hits by Richards and Joey Bianco, followed by a bunt single by Logan Loe, loaded the bases.
Olson, who came in from shortstop to close the game, regrouped and fanned the next two batters before inducing an infield pop up to close things out.
Trevor Lisic had two hits for the winners and four South Ridge pitchers combined to hold the Wolves to seven hits.
Marolt worked five-and-one-third innings, yielding six hits and walking seven.
“We as coaches never want to see the season end, but we are very proud of our guys and the way they competed today,” said head coach Frank Ivancich. “A good win vs Silver Bay as Logan Loe did what he has been doing all season long on the mound. We gave ourselves a chance to win, we set the table all day and just couldn’t deliver the big hit with any consistency, that has been our downfall all season in many games. When you play enough baseball, you realize that some days it's just not meant to be. Like we told our players if this hurts then it meant something which is good.”
Ely loses four seniors - Bianco, Loe, Erron Anderson, and Preston Hines.
“They all have been key players in our program over the past year,” said Ivancich. “This group had gone from a losing season two years ago to finishing out their careers winning 36 games the past two seasons with a second and third place finish in our last two Section 7A Tournaments.”
In Tuesday’s opening game, Loe took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and gave up only two hits overall while going the distance in Ely’s 4-2 victory against Silver Bay.
Ely jumped out to a 3-0 lead early on as Caid Chittum and Elliot Levens drove in runs in the bottom of the first.
But the Wolves stranded five runners in the first two frames and nine in the contest, and missed chances nearly came back to haunt them.
Silver Bay capitalized on a walk and an error, and a bases loaded double closed the deficit to 3-2 in the sixth.
The Wolves tacked one more run on in the bottom half of the frame, and Loe stranded two Mariners runners in the seventh.
Loe helped his own cause by going three-for-three at the plate, while both Chittum and Levens finished with two hits.
• In June 1 action at South Ridge, the Panthers scored four first-inning runs and never looked back in an 11-0, five-inning rout.
The Panthers’ Christian Pretasky went three-for-four with a home run and also got the win on the mound, working four innings and striking out eight.
Bianco and Anderson had Ely’s only hits, and Loe was tagged with the loss on the mound.
Ely rallied to beat Mt. Iron-Buhl 7-5 to move into the final four.
Anderson’s two-run double was part of a three-run uprising in the bottom of the fifth, and the Wolves added an insurance run in the sixth.
Earlier, Zander Lislegard hit a two-run home run for the Wolves.
Freshman Hunter Halbakken went five innings on the mound to pick up the victory. He allowed five hits and struck out four.
Loe earned the save with two innings on the mound, giving up only one hit.