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Legion second in substate tournament

SECOND IN SUBSTATE: Ely’s Legion baseball team fell 5-2 to Proctor on Saturday in the Div. II Northeast Substate Championship Game. Ely finished a game away from state and with a 17-7 overall record. Front (holding plaque) Easton Ivancich. Front Row (l-r): Aidan Ivancich, Elliot Levens, Louie Panichi, Owen Marolt, Ben Leeson, Jack Davies, Deegan Richards, Talen Jarshaw. Back Row: Asst. Coach Frank Ivancich, Caid Chittum, Blake Schaller, Erron Anderson, Drew Marolt, Brecken Sandberg, Drew Johnson, Hunter Halbakken, Head Coach Tom Coombe, Asst. Coach Derek Johnson

Proctor foils Ely’s bid for state, pulls out 5-2 win in title game

Stellar pitching powered Ely’s American Legion baseball team to its deepest postseason run in a decade.

But Ely struggled on the mound at times in Saturday’s substate title game, and it failed to cash in on numerous scoring chances in a 5-2 loss to Proctor.

Proctor, which moved on this week’s state tournament at Roseau, took advantage of 10 walks, including a pair of bases-loaded, two-out free passes in a four-run third inning.

Ely (17-7) still had its opportunities, loading the bases in both the fifth and seventh innings but coming up empty both times.

For the game, Ely outhit the hosts 10-4 and stranded 10 runners.

“It was a game of missed opportunities on both ends,” said head coach Tom Coombe. “Defensively, we missed a chance to nail a runner in their big inning and in the end that cost us three runs.  But we were still very much in the game and just didn’t get a big hit when we  had to have one.”

The loss ended Ely’s season, one in which it reached the substate finals for the first time since 2013.

It was a surprising year on many fronts, given only one player - senior Ben Kruse - was in his final season of Legion baseball.  The Ely lineup was also full of young talent, despite missing a handful of key players from a successful high school team.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted but it was a rewarding year in many, many ways,” said Coombe. “When we started I don’t know if anyone expected us to make a deep playoff run, but we got some wins early in the season, won the DQ Classic and I think gained a lot of confidence as the year went on. And the pitching was solid and pretty deep all year and that always helps to win baseball games.”

Ely’s Louie Panichi and Drew Marolt formed a potent pitching combination at the end of the year.

Panichi, after blanking International Falls through six innings July 18, was even more dominant in Saturday’s game against Taconite.

Needing a win to stay alive in the tournament and to reach the finals, Ely downed Taconite 2-0 as Panichi fired a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts.

Panichi was perfect through three innings and worked out of a fourth-inning jam that was the result of a walk and an error. The lefty was aided by a double-play ball in the sixth and got through the seventh after yielding a leadoff single.

“Louie was just tremendous on the mound,” said Coombe. “He kept them off balance and never let them get on track.”

Drew Johnson singled in Caid Chittum for the game’s first run in the bottom of the fourth.

Ely added insurance in the sixth, with Erron Anderson doubling to the gap and coming around to score when Drew Marolt reached base on an error.

That set the stage for the finals and  Ely struck first, scoring twice in the top of the third on four hits.

Chittum and Anderson had run-scoring hits, but Ely stranded two other runners in the frame.

Proctor fought back in the third but got some help.

A.J. Reyelts’ one-out triple plated the first run, but Reyelts took a big turn at third and was caught between bases, only to escape as the result of an errant throw.

Proctor pounced, adding two more runs as a result of a single and three walks.

The hosts added another run in the bottom of the fourth, but Ely had chances with two bases-loaded threats.

Winning pitcher Wyatt Minehine escaped in the fifth, and Reyelts came on with two outs in the seventh to coax a groundout and end Ely’s threat.

Chittum finished three-for-four at the plate for Ely while Panichi, Anderson and Marolt all finished with two hits.

Brecken Sandberg pitched two-and-one-third innings and was tagged with the loss, with Chittum, Talen Jarshaw and Hunter Halbakken all working in relief.

• In the July 21 winners’ bracket tilt, Proctor won a 2-0 pitching duel as the hosts’ Ethan Carter prevailed over Ely’s Marolt.

Carter blanked Ely on two hits and faced only one serious threat, when Post 248 loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth.  The crafty righthander got Anderson to ground out, and cruised in the seventh.

Marolt, meanwhile, gave up two first-inning runs on a bloop single to left by Kennan Reyelts.

But that was it, as the Ely righthander was nearly as dominant, finishing with a four-hitter and 10 strikeouts. He did not walk a batter.

“That may have been Drew’s best game on the mound, even though it was a loss,” said Coombe. “He was locked in against a good team and deserved a better fate.   He showed that he is going to be one of the top pitchers around here next year.”

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