ELY - With five starters gone and only one senior returning from a team that reached the state tournament last year, it will be a season of new faces in new positions for the Ely baseball team to …
ELY - With five starters gone and only one senior returning from a team that reached the state tournament last year, it will be a season of new faces in new positions for the Ely baseball team to start the spring.
How quickly the young roster can come together will determine if Ely can make a run at its fourth section title in six years.
“Will most certainly be a rebuilding season for us,” Ely head coach Frank Ivancich said. “Replacing five senior starters and returning only one senior, our young freshmen and sophomores will be thrown into the fire often and early this spring.
“As always, our goal is to make it back to the state tournament. We have some good young talent and they will be tested early this spring.”
Ely does return a pair of All-Arrowhead selections in senior center fielder Mark Killoran and junior pitcher/catcher Gage Merhar, as well as key contributors in juniors Dylan Kienitz (pitcher/third base) and Carter Gaulke (catcher/pitcher/outfield) and sophomore Tyler Housey (outfield/catcher).
Expected to compete for playing time as well are junior Thomas Montana (infield/pitcher), sophomore Trevor Mattson (pitcher/first base) and freshmen Dalton Schreffler (shortstop), Nils DeRemee (second base) and Bryce Longwell (first base/pitcher).
The team is young, yet deep.
“Our program and our numbers - that is our strength,” Ivancich said. “Having an incredible (feeder system) helps us to continue to be successful each and every year.
“We have numberous kids who can contribute this spring, it will be a matter of putting them in the right positions and situations to be successful.”
New Minnesota State High School League rules limiting pitch counts will make pitching depth even more of a priority moving forward.
“We have three pitchers (Merhar, Kienitz and Mattson) with experience returning and that could be our strength, but we are young and need to consistently throw strikes,” Ivancich said. “I feel we have nine guys that can pitch and give us some varsity innings, especially with the new MSHSL pitch count rules in play this spring.
“Outfield wise we are very experienced, returning all three starters in Mark Killoran, Tyler Housey and Carter Gaulke/Dalton Schreffler. We may struggle hitting early on in the season, but we will improve as the season moves forward. Getting out and playing, especially with many young, inexperienced first-time varsity players will be a bit of a challenge early in the season.”
A tough 2017 schedule looms for Ely, with the addition of 2016 state entrants Hinckley-Finlayson and Legacy Christian among the highlights.
Ely opened the season with a strong 4-1 victory over Class AA Two Harbors at home on Friday.
Two Harbors scored the game’s first run on three hits in the top of the first inning, but was held there thanks to a double play at shortstop by Schreffler.
That would prove to be all of the offense the Agates could muster, as Merhar started and worked the first three innings, striking out five. Kienitz came on in relief to throw four scoreless innings and pick up the win.
After striking out eight times in its first three at bats, Ely broke through with a pair of runs in the fourth inning.
Housey reached on an error, then Montana bunted his way aboard.
Mattson drove in Housey with a single, then DeRemee knocked in Montana on a groundout.
The Wolves added two more runs in the fifth with Housey and Montana each knocking in a run.
Montana finished 2-for-3, with Merhar and Schreffler picking up Ely’s other two hits.
“Good start to the season for us,” Ivancich said. “We did some little things to move people over on the bases. We got two bunts down and put the ball in play, forcing Two Harbors to make some plays.”