Young ’Jacks show age has nothing to do with winning
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET, Minn. – Ever since Cloquet softball head coach Steph Sklors put her lineup together for this season, she has been hearing her team is way too young and doesn’t have enough experience to win at the varsity level.
Well, after the first two games in their 2009 campaign, the Lumberjacks have shown that age has nothing to do with winning – because they’re unbeaten.
In a pair of home contests earlier this week, the young Cloquet sluggers notched a pair of convincing victories on the diamond. On Monday they shut out Superior 4-0, and Tuesday they knocked off Duluth East 2-1 at Braun Park.
The young Lumberjacks include just two seniors – pitcher Katrina Korman and centerfielder Alyssa Hanson. Outfielder Courtney Esse and pitcher Rachel Smith are juniors, and the other nine girls are all underclassmen, six of whom start.
“The girls are young, but have played a lot of softball and have been well coached in the past,” said Sklors about the girls who all play fastpitch in the summer. “[They] know the situations and are very composed and focused. These girls are ready to play.”
Monday’s season-opener against the Spartans was tied at 0-0 until the bottom of the fifth inning when both Korman and Hanson knocked in a pair of runs to put Cloquet up 4-0. Korman and Hanson led the squad with two hits apiece, while Korman dominated in the circle, allowing just one hit on her way to fanning seven batters and leading the ‘Jacks to the shutout victory.
On Tuesday, the Greyhounds got on the board in the top of the first inning and Cloquet remained behind 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth inning. Then sophomore outfielder Makenzie Korby sparked the Lumberjacks by knocking in freshman third baseman Shania Paulson to knot the game up at 1-1.
After the ‘Jacks solid defensive efforts, Paulson led off the bottom of the seventh inning as she laced a double. Freshman speedster Kayla Masessa then ran for Paulson representing the winning run. Korby again came to the dish and roped a single to right field, advancing Masessa to third base. It was during Hanson’s next at-bat that Masessa scored on a pass ball and earned Cloquet an exciting come-from-behind 2-1 victory over their rivals.
Korman again went the distance for the ‘Jacks in the circle, ringing up nine batters on strikes, while only allowing four hits and giving up just the single run in her second win of the season.
“Katrina is amazing,” said Sklors about her senior leader who has started on the rubber every season since she took the job in Cloquet three years ago. “She is better than she has ever been.”
And Sklors couldn’t be any happier.
“I think that it was very important for this young group to start strong,” she said. “We have a lot to work on, but it was a great start for us. We’re hitting the ball and we’re very aggressive and I like that. I’m very pleased.”
The Lumberjacks will now take their game on the road, as they play Duluth Central at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, April 16. Next they host Greenway at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Braun Park.
Cloquet will also stay busy next week on the diamond, as they travel to both Esko and Hibbing on Monday and Tuesday, and welcome Grand Rapids and Duluth Marshall on Thursday and Friday. Besides the Esko matchup at 4 p.m., all games time are scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. start.