Warriors upset in Section Championship Game

by Head Coach Jim Erzar

The Deer River Warrior baseball team went into the Section Championship game last Thursday, June 8th, with a 21-2 record and needed only one win to claim the Section championship but Ely defeated the Warriors twice at Wade Stadium in Duluth to capture the 2017 Section 7A Championship. The Warriors fell behind early in both games but rallied in each only to fall short, losing 12-7 in the first game and 9-6 in the second game, leaving the bases loaded in the 7th inning. The Warriors had reached the championship game with an exciting 8-6 with over South Ridge in last Tuesday’s game between the two unbeaten teams remaining in the Section. Ely defeated South Ridge 5-4 later Tuesday evening to get to the Championship game through the losers bracket. The Warriors have been in the Section Championship game five times in the last nine years winning titles in 2010, 2011 and again in 2015 when seven of the current seniors started as sophomores. This was obviously a disappointing ending to a very good year for the Warriors.

Last Thursday, the Warriors entered the Championship game having issued only 71 walks in 23 games, an average of a little over 3 walks per game. However, the Warriors gave up twenty walks, ten in each game which seemed to be their undoing. In the first game, Deer River fell behind 2-0 in the first inning but the Warriors tied it at 2-2 in the bottom of the second inning on hits by Cole Casselman and Jake Schimek. However, Ely bounce back with five runs in the third for a 7-2 lead and added five more in the top of the sixth for a 12-2 lead. The Warriors scored one in the bottom of the sixth and rallied for four more runs in the seventh but that wasn’t enough as the Warriors fell 12-7. Warrior pitcher Jaxson Willis suffered his first loss of the year in that game with Troy Finn throwing the final four innings in relief. Robert Moore had two hits for the Warriors. In the second game, Ely jumped to an early 9-1 lead after three innings of play before the Warriors put some runs on the board. The Warriors scored twice in the fourth, once in the fifth and scored twice more in the seventh inning to cut the gap to 9-6. With the bases loaded and two out, Jeffrey Moore who already had two hits in the game including a triple, just got underneath a fastball and flew out to centerfield to end the game. Chad Benham also had two hits for the Warriors and suffered only his second loss of the season on the mound. Tyler Anttila was stellar in his performance in relief, shutting out Ely for the final three innings. He gave up just one hit and one run in four innings of work.

The Warriors reached the championship game with Tuesday’s 8-6 win over South Ridge at Wade Stadium. In that game, Deer River jumped out to a 3-0 lead scoring once in the first and twice more in the second. In the fourth, Warrior pitcher Chad Benham reached his pitch count for the day and left with the bases loaded and was relieved by Jeffrey Moore. However, South Ridge managed to score five times on only one hit and several Warrior miscues for a 5-3 lead. In the top of the sixth, the Warriors came back with five runs of their own with a key two run double by J. Moore which plated the tying and lead runs. Moore also pitched well in the final three inning to pick up the victory. He gave up only one unearned run in the last three innings on just one hit and picked up his eighth pitching victory of the season, forth most in school history. Moore also lead the Warrior hitting attack going three for four with two doubles and three RBI’s. Jaxson Willis and Tyler Anttila also had two hits each. Anttila also had a double and an RBI.

The Warriors will surely miss a core nucleus of seniors, many of whom have three and four years of varsity experience. The largest group of senior baseball players for Deer River include: Tyler Anttila, Chad Benham, Cole Casselman, Nathan Erickson, Troy Finn, Dakota Goggleye, Tyrese Jackson, Marcus Little, Jeffrey Moore, Jake Schimek, Ethan Schjenken, and Jaxson Willis. Returning for the Warriors will be juniors Nathaniel Grossell and Tyler Gunderson; sophomores: Jalen Fairbanks, Cole Fox, Robert Moore, Frank Villeneuve and Jadon Watkin; and freshman Daniel Erickson, Talance Fairbanks, Trey Fairbanks and Jesse Feltus.

Ely will play at the State Class A tournament June 15-16 at the Mini Met in Jordan and at the Chaska Athletic Park with all Classes of the State Finals set for Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, on Monday, June 19th.

Chad Benham slides home safely scoring all the way from first base and gave the Warriors an 8-5 lead over the Panthers.
Jeffrey Moore gets ready to hit. Moore doubled on the next pitch to give the Warriors the lead against South Ridge last Tuesday which sent them to the Championship game.
The Deer River Warrior baseball team ended up as the Section Runner Up. The Warriors finished the season with a 21-4 record, the second most wins in school history.