Ely out of softball playoffs
by Tom Coombe
Ely’s high school softball team made a hard charge toward the finish, but Mt. Iron-Buhl proved to be an untimely obstacle.
The Rangers danced into and out of trouble Tuesday, escaping with a 4-2 win over the Timberwolves in the opening round of the Section 7A playoffs.
Host MIB, which was seeded seventh in the tournament and moved into the double-elimination round, squelched potential rallies from the 10th-seeded Wolves in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
In three of the four frames, Ely stranded two runners and could never get the equalizer against winning pitcher Natalie Bergman.
The sophomore righthander scattered six hits and struck out nine, including some key punch outs down the stretch.
Ely got a solid performance in the circle from freshman Zoe Mackenzie, who scattered six hits and struck out four.
But the Wolves, who finished 7-8, couldn’t sustain the momentum they generated over the last week, when they won five of their last seven regular season contests.
MIB got to Mackenzie in the opening frame, when the hosts scored four times on four hits - three that went for extra bases.
The Ely pitcher settled in after that, but the Wolves couldn’t come all the way back.
Ely cut the gap in half with a two-out rally in the top of the third.
Following back-to-back strikeouts, Ely’s Clare Thomas singled and teammate Hannah Penke drew a walk.
That set the stage for Kate Coughlin, who after a stolen base delivered a two-run single to make it 4-2.
A double by senior Madeline Kallberg and a dropped third strike put two runners aboard in the fourth, but Bergman worked out of the jam.
She also escaped trouble in the fifth, while the Wolves were unable to capitalize on a leadoff double by Rachel Couglhin and a walk to Kallberg in the sixth.
Penke’s two-out single kept the Wolves alive in the seventh, but Bergman got Kate Coughlin to fly out to end the game.
The Rangers, who split a doubleheader with the Wolves during the regular season, moved into the double-elimination phase of the tournament on Thursday at Cloquet. They met second-seeded Cherry,.
• The Wolves closed the regular season with a wild 13-12 win at Floodwood on May 19.
Ely led 9-4 midway through, but the Polar Bears fought back and took a 12-11 lead into the seventh.
Amelia Penke’s two-out, two-run single plated Rachel Coughlin and Emma Perish with the tying and winning runs.
In the bottom of the frame, Floodwood got the tying run to second with one out, but Mackenzie got back-to-back flyouts to preserve the win.
Mackenzie scattered 11 hits and fanned three to pick up the win, with eight of the 12 Floodwood runs earned.
Kate Coughlin stoked the Wolves’ offense by going two-for-four with four runs bated in.
Rachel Coughlin added two hits and Hannah Penke scored three runs, with Thomas and Amelia Penke scoring two runs each.