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Richards, Starkovich pitch VFW past BEST

Ely’s VFW baseball team got a pair of dominant pitching performances Tuesday night, resulting in a season-opening sweep of Babbitt-Embarrass-Soudan-Tower.Jordan Richards fired a no-hitter as Ely downed BEST 7-1 in the second game of the twinbill at Veterans Memorial Field.In the opener, Paul Starkovich allowed just two hits in a 9-3 Ely win.With all but one starter back and as many as eight 16-year-olds in the lineup, Ely had little resemblance to the 2003 club that went 4-20. In the span of three-and-a-half hours, Post 2717 got off to a perfect start and got halfway to matching its win total from the previous summer.Ely did it with pitching.Starkovich, who helped Ely’s high school B-squad team to a solid spring, gave up two unearned runs in the first but settled down the rest of the way. He struck out the side in the second inning and retired 13 of 14 batters at one point.He took a no-hitter into the sixth, when BEST’s Ryan Potter singled and Seth Bjornrud doubled.Starkovich gave up one run in the sixth and had a one-two-three inning in the seventh, finishing with eight strikeouts.BEST’s 2-0 lead didn’t last long. Ely got one in the second on a run-scoring hit by Ernie Horvat.Ely pulled ahead in the third when Richards reached base on an error and Jay Olson and Matt High followed with hits. In the fourth, Ely scored five runs on two hits and three BEST errors, putting the game away.Ely finished with seven hits, as Horvat and Nick Furnstahl collected two each. Both Furnstahl and Richards scored twice.Tyler Blomberg suffered the loss for BEST. He worked four innings and Potter pitched the last two. Blomberg fanned six batters and Potter recorded three strikeouts.Richards, who played golf during the spring, showed he can play baseball as well in the doubleheader.He made a diving play at shortstop in the first game, then went to the mound and threw his first career VFW no-hitter, striking out nine along the way.BEST still scraped out a run in the second as Bjornrud walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch.With the score tied at one, Ely pulled ahead in the third.Richards walked, stole second and scored on a Jake Ojala single. Ojala scored on a passed ball to make it 3-1.Ely scored twice in the fourth without a hit, taking advantage of two walks and an error.Horvat tripled and scored in the sixth, and Richards added a sacrifice fly.Ely had only five hits in the game against BEST pitchers Luke Mathson and Billy Tibbetts. Tibbetts struck out four and gave up one hit in three innings.Richards, meanwhile, set down BEST’s last 10 hitters.The twinbill kicks off a busy stretch for Ely.This week’s slate starts today, with a home doubleheader against Hibbing (4 p.m.).Road trips to Chisholm (Tuesday) and Virginia (Wednesday) follow, and Ely takes part in the 12-team Lou Eskelsen Memorial Tournament at Duluth this weekend.Ely meets Virginia and Duluth East Friday in tournament games at Duluth’s Ordean Field.

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