Cloquet falls in Section championship
DULUTH—Having already helped Cloquet to the state football and boys basketball tournaments this school year, junior Nate Weets was seeking the same route in baseball.
That route, just a win shy, will have to wait until next season.
Weets and the Lumberjacks’ season ended last Thursday when Cloquet came up short in a pair of 7-2 and 6-4 losses to Aitkin in the Section 7AA baseball championship, finishing at nearly 11 p.m. at a 40-degree Wade Stadium in Duluth.
For the streaking Gobblers (22-4), winning five straight now through the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament, Thursday’s game with Fairmont in St. Cloud is their small town’s first in school history since founded in 1894.
“We came up there planning on playing two baseball games,” said fourth-year Aitkin Coach Jeremy Janzen. “But we told them from the beginning, ‘If you’re going to get to the state tournament, you’re going to go through Cloquet.’”
Cloquet’s right-handed Weets was oddly the losing pitcher in both games, despite allowing just two earned runs in 7⅓ innings as a game one reliever and a game two starter.
Like they have all season, errors affected Cloquet (13-7) most. Leading 2-1 late, several defensive miscues in game one led to a two-run, go-ahead Aitkin fifth, followed by a four-run sixth inning in which the Lumberjacks lost their momentum and even assistant Eric Hagen, who was ejected.
The second contest wasn’t much better, when Cloquet committed a handful of mistakes in a five-run second inning off Weets in which four runs were unearned. The Lumberjacks threatened at times, including bringing the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but never once led.
“If we make a few plays, maybe that’s the difference,” said Cloquet Coach Rick Norrgard. “You don’t always get the right bounces, and that night, we didn’t. We lost a little wind in our sails [after losing that first game]. And when the momentum swings like that, it’s tough for you to get it back.
“You just feel bad for the kids,” Norrgard continued.
The Lumberjacks, which broke a five-game win streak, were seeking a fourth state appearance and first since 2010.
“It was hard — we had a chance and missed our opportunity to go through,” said Cloquet senior Nate O’Hara, who stood stranded on second base last week as his high school career ended. “It was a little more than a sting.”
O’Hara and Weets both played a Legion game Tuesday.
“And the sting hasn’t gone away still,” Weets admitted.