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Experience gives softball team a boost

When Steve Smrekar fills out his lineup card this spring, he’ll probably have a smile on his face.The veteran Ely softball coach has veterans up and down his lineup, and the Timberwolves appear to be in good position to build on their 10-win season in 2003.With junior Jackie Lekatz and sophomore Kelsey Ivancich anchoring the pitching staff and several seniors boasting varsity experience, Ely is pumped up for a banner 2004 campaign.The Timberwolves open the season at 4:30 Tuesday, hosting Eveleth-Gilbert in the first of 20 regular season games.Ely advanced into the Section 7A quarterfinals last season, and the return of much of the starting lineup could put the Wolves in position for an even longer playoff run.“We’re going to have lots of experience in many main positions,” said Smrekar. “We have some very good athletes. If our pitching holds up like it looks we should be really good.”Exchange student Kanari Ishikawa and junior Jessie Tefft both provided quality innings a year ago. Neither is back this spring, but the pitching staff looks strong with a one-two punch of Lekatz and Ivancich, both three-sport athletes.And fresh from big seasons in basketball, seniors Lara Doran, Lauren Klun and Gena Jerich are key cogs in the softball lineup.Both Doran and Jerich will see time at first base and the outfield, while Klun plays either third base or shortstop.Behind the plate, junior Candice Smrekar returns at catcher, and the team has been given a boost by the return of junior infielder Linda Wiegman. Also back are senior outfielders Jessie Ojala and Ashley Niskala.Several sophomores could see fill-in roles for Ely. The Wolves are looking to continue the momentum from winning seasons in 2001 and 2002 and a 10-11 campaign last season.Weather permitting, Ely kicks off the docket Tuesday, with a road date at Floodwood later in the week.Ely High School Softball 2004 ScheduleTuesday: Eveleth-Gilb.Thursday: at FloodwoodApr. 20: Mt. Iron-BuhlApr. 22: BESTApr. 23: IndusApr. 26: at Silver BayApr. 29: ChisholmApr. 30: at Cook CountyMay 1: at Hill City TourneyMay 3: Nash.-Kee.May 4: at Mesabi EastMay 10: at Int. FallsMay 11: CherryMay 13: at BESTMay 14: at Littlefork-BFMay 17: Silver BayMay 22: Dul. Marshall, 10 a.m.Games at 4:30 p.m. unless noted

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