’Jacks fall short on hitting
If there were one phrase to describe Cloquet’s exit from the Section 7AA softball tournament on Tuesday at Braun Park, it would be “died for lack of a timely hit.”
The ’Jacks left 10 runners on base in a 4-3 loss to Pequot Lakes in the losers’ bracket final game, including two in the seventh inning.
“That was our problem,” Coach Ron Tondryk said. “We couldn’t get the big hit when we needed to get it.”
Cloquet led 3-2 in the fifth inning with ace pitcher Chandler Beaupre, freshly healed from a sprained foot, back on the mound. However, the Patriots came back on successive two-out hits from pitcher Katie White, Kayla Miller and Hannah Zimmerman to score twice and rally for a 4-3 lead.
In the seventh inning, White struck out Beaupre with two runners on base to end the game. Cloquet left two runners on base five times in the game including all of the first four innings.
“We had good, timely hitting in our other games,” Tondryk said. “But against Pequot Lakes we couldn’t get that job done.”
Beaupre worked five and one-third innings before giving way to Kaylee McMillen, scattering seven hits and striking out seven.
“Maybe Chandler was tired a little bit after not pitching for awhile,” Tondryk said. “I could have made a pitching change earlier, I guess.”
Kassidy Steen had two hits including a two-run homer in the fifth inning for Cloquet while Kayla Miller and Sammy Zeadow added two hits apiece.
Cloquet started the losers’ bracket day with a 6-3 win over a senior-laden Esko team. Beaupre fanned 10 Eskomos and allowed eight hits in the game while Abbey Saralampi allowed eight hits and struck out six for Esko. Katrina Smith had three hits for Cloquet while Morgan Pera and Kayla Garson had two hits each for Esko.
“We scratched and clawed for everything we got in that game,” Esko coach Brad Emanuel said. “But defensively, we made two mistakes and Cloquet wound up with three runs. In the playoffs it’s all about eliminating mistakes and we didn’t do that.”
“We lose seven starters now, including both our pitchers, our catcher, first, second and third base and one of our outfielders,” Emanuel added. “The seniors on this team worked very hard and I felt badly for them. We overcame some injuries and, of course, the short season and in our last six games we really put things together.”
The win over Esko put Cloquet into the next round against Virginia, and the ’Jacks eliminated the Blue Devils 10-1. Beaupre worked five innings and struck out five, allowing four hits. Jade Benko had three hits for Cloquet and Makayla Langenbrunner had two RBI.
“Obviously, our hitting was better in that game,” Tondryk said. “We did get the hits we needed and we were able to beat Virginia with some ease.”
That set up the second game of the tournament between the Lumberjacks and Patriots, and Tondryk said that while his team lost twice, it could have emerged the winner.
“We were disappointed that we didn’t execute,” he said. “I do think we left something out on the field. When you leave 10 runners on base, you do have that feeling. I think that if we get a clutch hit, we win that game.”
The ’Jacks now say goodbye to six seniors.
“I feel badly for them because they were a classy group that worked very hard,” Tondryk said. “We had high expectations for that group of seniors and they fell just a little bit short.
“We have nine or 10 younger kids who we need to step up now. In summer ball, we’re going to throw them to the wolves instead of waiting until next spring to do it. Their next step comes now.”