Ely overcame a disastrous top of the fifth with a clutch bottom half of the inning, and the result was a wild playoff win Tuesday night at Veterans Memorial Field.
After watching Esko score six runs in the top half of the inning only only two hits, Post 248 stormed back in the bottom half with four runs, then held on for a 7-6 victory in the opening round of the Eighth District Division II Playoffs.
Will Gustafson's two-out single plated Pat Huisman with the winning run and capped a four-run fifth, and it was Gustafson, on in relief of Louie Gerzin, who held off Esko in the final two frames.
Gerzin cruised through the first four innings with a 3-0 lead, but ran out of steam in the fifth and walked five batters. An error prolonged the frame, Nick Emanuel's two-run double put Esko on top, and the visitors scored twice more to lead 6-3.
But an Esko error ignited Ely in the fifth, and Gerzin's run-scoring hit closed the gap to two. After Max Gantt singled, Pat Huisman delivered a key two-run single to tie the game, setting the stage for Gustafson's game-winner and giving a big Veterans Night crowd plenty to cheer about.
Gustafson allowed only two hits in two and two-thirds innings of work, and picked a runner off second in the sixth inning to thwart an Esko rally, on the way to his fourth win of the year.
Gerzin struck out nine and allowed only one hit, but seven walks led to an early exit for the Ely ace.
Elliot Omerza had a run-scoring single in the first and Cole Kellogg added a two-run dobule later in the frame, and that was the only scoring until the fifth.
Ely was aided by good defense, including the pickoff play in the sixth and a diving catch in center by Jeff Willis to end the game.
Huisman and Gerzin had two hits for Ely which outhit Esko 9-3.
Ely (18-10) advances to meet Two Harbors in a winners' bracket tilt at 2:30 p.m. Friday. Two Harbors advanced with a 9-2 victory over Deer River.
In the opposite bracket, International Falls ace Ben Humbert struck out 15 as the tournament's top-seeded team blanked Moose Lake 5-0. Milaca scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to beat Taconite 3-2, in the final game of a playoff doubleheader at Marble.
The tournament resumes Friday with seven games, five in Ely and two more at Soudan.