Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Late comebacks end state run

Patrick Slack
Posted 6/21/17

CHASKA - Ely suffered a pair of close defeats as its remarkable season drew to a close at the Class A state baseball tournament this weekend.

The Wolves fell 9-4 against second-seeded Legacy …

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Late comebacks end state run

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CHASKA - Ely suffered a pair of close defeats as its remarkable season drew to a close at the Class A state baseball tournament this weekend.

The Wolves fell 9-4 against second-seeded Legacy Christian Academy in the quarterfinals, then 5-2 against third-seeded Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman.

Ely finished the season with a record of 20-10.

It was a shaky opening to Thursday’s quarterfinals in Jordan, with Legacy Christian Academy pouncing on the Wolves for three quick runs in the bottom of the first inning, capitalizing on an errant throw on a bunt play to spark the rally.

“After the first inning, giving up four hits, things didn’t really look too good,” Ely head coach Frank Ivancich said. “As we told the guys, mental mistakes are magnified at this level.”

The Wolves would settle in, however, keeping Legacy at bay in the second inning due in large part to catcher Carter Gaulke throwing out a pair of potential base stealers.

“That was huge for us to just settle in a bit and get over the nerves,” Ivancich said.

Legacy Christian maintained its 3-0 lead until the top of the fourth, when Ely’s bats came to life with a four-run frame to take a 4-3 lead.

Luke Olson led off with a single, then Gage Merhar reached after the Legacy shortstop couldn’t handle his sharp grounder.

Joey Pierce took advantage of second life after a dropped foul ball, singling on the next pitch to load the bases.

A wild pitch brought in the Wolves’ first run. Then, after a fly out, Dalton Schreffler tied the game on a two-run triple just past a diving attempt in right field.

Schreffler later scored on another Legacy wild pitch with two outs to give Ely the lead.

It would be short-lived, though, as Legacy loaded the bases on consecutive walks to open the bottom of the fourth inning, eventually scoring two runs to go ahead 5-4.

Ely managed to wiggle out of a runner on third, no-out jam in the bottom of the fifth, but Legacy busted the game open with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to extend its lead to 9-4.

Ely threatened one final time in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with no outs, but couldn’t score.

Schreffler finished 3-for-3, driving in two runs and scoring once.

Pierce went 2-for-3 with a run, Olson went 1-for-4 with a run and Gaulke also picked up a hit.

“(I) was very pleased with how we approached our at bats, especially in that four-run fourth inning,” Ivancich said. “We put some good swings on, especially Luke Olson, Joey Pierce and Dalton Schreffler’s big two-run opposite field triple tying the game at three. We got them a bit rattled.”

The Wolves were hampered by a tough day in the field, committing five errors that led to five unearned runs.

“The bottom of the sixth took the game out of reach for us against a very good pitcher,” Ivancich said. “Allowing those four runs on an error, close call at first that went against us and a mental mistake allowing another runner to score gave us no chance. We just walked too many Legacy batters (eight) and four of those walks scored.

“But, we did respond by loading the bases in the seventh inning. No quit in our guys and we as coaches are very proud of that.”

The Wolves were done in again by a tough fourth inning in the consolation semifinals on Friday in Chaska, as Martin Luther/Grenada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman used a mid-game rally to top Ely.

Ely opened with back-to-back hits by Killoran and Olson, only to come up empty, but plated the game’s first run in the second.

Schreffler led off with a single, advanced to second base on a ground out and third base on a passed ball.

Nils DeRemee followed with a run-scoring single to give Ely a 1-0 lead it would carry into the fourth.

There, Martin Luther advanced runners to second and third with one out, then put on a squeeze play.

Ely had a chance to escape the inning fall just out of its grasp as the bunt found a patch of grass between defenders, then the ensuing throw sailed past the first baseman, leading to both runners scoring and the batter ending up at third base.

That run also scored, giving Martin Luther a 3-1 lead.

Ely cut that gap in half in the bottom of the fifth as DeRemee led off with a single and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch, but ended the frame leaving two runners on base.

Martin Luther responded with two more runs on a pair of errors in the top of the sixth to stretch its lead to 5-2, holding it the rest of the way.

Trevor Mattson started on the mound for the Wolves, allowing only two hits and three walks over five innings, striking out three.

DeRemee finished 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, with Killoran, Olson, Schreffler and Housey also collecting hits.

“I felt we had a good chance of winning this game, especially with Trevor on the mound,” Ivancich said. “We knew that they pitched well and played defense, but also struggled with their offense.

“Getting the lead helped us a bit - fourth inning we just simply fell apart. We threw away a potential double play ball and terribly misplayed a squeeze bunt and threw another ball away, thus allowing not just one run but two runs to score without getting an out.

“You cannot give teams like these extra outs in an inning. I think that a few of our errors came from our youth and just simply lack of experience. A couple were just pressure type errors and others just need to play more baseball and react to the situation.”

Nonetheless, it was an incredible spring for the youth-heavy Wolves, winning 20 games and the Section 7A championship with only one senior on the roster.

“The coaches are so proud of the way this team came together and got better throughout the season,” Ivancich said. “Ten pitchers saw varsity innings and 16 players started at least one or more games this season. Great team effort.”

Parkers Prairie ultimately won the Class A tournament, defeating Legacy Christian Academy 6-3 in the championship game.

The Wolves will not sneak up on anyone next year, and will likely enter as one of the season’s top-ranked teams.

“As we told them, we will be ranked in the top 10 at the start of next season and we will have a target on our backs all year long,” Ivancich said. “The challenge is to get stronger and get more experienced. The players who choose to play summer baseball will get better and make us even stronger next spring.”

The Wolves will lose senior center fielder Mark Killoran, who served as a spark plug in the leadoff spot, to graduation.

“(Mark) had an incredible senior season, knocking out 39 hits and driving in a team high 34 RBIs and finishing the season with a .394 batting average,” Ivancich said.

Killoran, Mattson and Gage Merhar were named to the All-Arrowhead Conference team, with the trio joined by Joey Pierce on the All-Section 7A team.

“The future is exciting, especially with how our guys played down the stretch, especially the young guys who stepped up big time at state for us,” Ivancich said. “Mark, Gage, Thomas and Carter led us in the 7A Section tournament, but in the state our younger guys led us.”

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