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Legion Classic goes to the home team

Another weekend, another tournament championship for Ely’s American Legion baseball team.One week after winning Virginia’s Land of the Loon Tournament, Post 248 dominated its own tournament at Veterans Memorial Field.Ely won four straight games, outscoring its competition by a combined margin of 37-13 to claim the first-place trophy at the 17th annual Ely Legion Classic.Lefty Tim Scott fanned 11 batters as Ely drilled St. Charles 11-1 in the June 25 tournament opener. The next day, Post 248 picked up its most impressive win of the tournament, a 10-4 decision over defending Classic champion Sartell.Victories over Proctor (10-4) and St. Charles (6-4) followed and Ely won the event for the third time in four years.“To win this tournament any year is a heck of an accomplishment,” said Ely Head Coach Tom Coombe. “To do it this year, we had to beat a Sartell team that was in the state high school tournament in the largest class. That was a very nice win for us.”Perhaps more impressive is that three of the wins came without senior slugger Josh Mathson, who missed the first two days of the tournament while playing in the Minnesota Lions All-Star High School Baseball Tournament at Chaska. Mathson returned for the final game of the Classic.Ely finished with a perfect 4-0 mark in the tourney, followed by Sartell at 3-1, St. Charles at 1-3 and Proctor at 0-4.Ely 11, St. Charles 1The visitors from southern Minnesota, who were here last year for the Division II state tournament, threatened early on but couldn’t capitalize against Scott.The Ely pitcher escaped bases-loaded jams in both the first and second innings and settled in after that, scattering six hits and reaching double-digits in strikeouts.Ely jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, then pulled away from the fourth inning on.Aaron Thom belted three hits for the winners, while Tony Carlson and Kevin Pope added two hits each.Ely 10, Sartell 4Four-run uprisings in both the first and second innings sent Post 248 on to a convincing win.Thom singled in a run in the first to put Ely ahead, and Cory Lassi, Joel Dostert and Ben Barnes followed with run-scoring hits.Ely sent nine men to the plate in the first inning, and did so again in the second as the same scenario played out.Kevin Pope had bunt hits in both frames and scored both times. Dostert and Barnes also had run-scoring hits in the second.Meanwhile, Josh Weckman silenced the Sartell bats.The righthander, who went 9-1 in high school baseball, picked up his second Legion win of the summer and scattered seven hits.Barnes paced the Ely attack with three hits, while Pope, Dostert and Thom all added two.Ely 10, Proctor 4Phil Brodeen made his Legion pitching debut and got the win, tossing a seven-hitter and walking just two batters.Proctor pitchers didn’t have as much control, issuing 10 free passes.That helped Ely, which had only six hits, build up a big lead.Weckman had the key hit for Ely, a two-run double as part of a five-run second inning.Brodeen, a junior from Tower-Soudan, had more than enough support and wound up with a complete game.Ely 6, St. Charles 4Ely had already wrapped up the tournament championship by the time the June 27 finale got underway, and St. Charles had the home team on the ropes for much of the game.Stymied through five innings by lefty A.J. Groebner, Ely fell behind 4-1.Groebner kept Ely’s hitters off-balance with an array of off-speed pitches.“He had us tied up,” said Coombe. “He proved you don’t have to throw terribly hard to be an effective pitcher.”Ely finally got to Groebner and St. Charles in the sixth.Urbas led off with a walk, and a one-out single by Josh Mathson put runners at first and third.Thom and Lassi followed with hits to cut the gap to 4-3, and Ely tied it against reliever Jay Keller on a double steal. Lassi broke early from first, and when Keller turned to throw to second, Thom broke for home with the tying run.Scott put Ely ahead with a two-out single and Weckman’s run-scoring single gave Post 248 an insurance run.Mathson came on in the seventh and tossed a scoreless inning, saving the win for Barnes, who went six innings, gave up nine hits and issued no walks.

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