Cloquet softball pulls last-inning upset to advanceThe Cloquet softball team faces a tough task Thursday as it plays for a spot in the Minnesota state softball tournament. The ’Jacks will face seven-time defending section champion Hermantown in Cohasset – but will do so coming from the losers’ bracket after a 9-2 loss to the Hawks in Tuesday’s section semifinals.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet softball team faces a tough task Thursday as it plays for a spot in the Minnesota state softball tournament.
The ’Jacks will face seven-time defending section champion Hermantown in Cohasset – but will do so coming from the losers’ bracket after a 9-2 loss to the Hawks in Tuesday’s section semifinals.
Cloquet (14-5) rebounded from the loss to defeat Eveleth-Gilbert 6-5 in the losers’ bracket final, setting up Thursday’s showdown with the Hawks. Cloquet also defeated Moose Lake-Willow River 9-1 in the first game of the tournament.
“It’s never easy to come back and win back-to-back games against a good pitcher, but it can be done,” Cloquet Coach Ron Tondryk said.
The day started strongly with the win over the Rebels.
Denise Rodd pitched a complete game four-hitter, and no-hit the Rebels through the first five innings. Meanwhile, the ’Jacks pounded out 15 hits against Rebel starter Sam Johnson.
Dalyce Gustafson continued her torrid hitting, with four hits in four trips including three doubles. Kayla Masessa was 3-for-3 and drove in three runs. Kelly Carlson had three hits and drove in two runs and Alyssa Michaelson also had two hits for
“We got good pitching,” Tondryk said. “The girls came ready to play and it showed on the field. Denise kept them off balance for the first five innings but they hit the ball in the later innings. Fortunately we had nine runs at that time. We knew they (Moose Lake-Willow River) could hit, and they did.”
After a 20-minute break, the ’Jacks ran into a buzz saw in the form of Hermantown pitcher Katie Thun. She struck out 12 Cloquet batters and allowed five hits in a solid win for the Hawks. Thun also homered and hit a bases-loaded triple in the third inning for Hermantown.
Rodd pitched again and allowed 11 hits while striking out five. Gustafson doubled and scored one of the runs while two more of the hits came from Masessa, who drove in a run.
“We ran into a good pitcher and couldn’t lay off her high rise ball,” Tondryk said. “We’re aggressive at the plate and the kids want to hit. They see the ball coming in high and they want to swing. It took us four innings to lay off the high ball and make her [Thun] bring it down in the zone but it was too late by then.”
The Hermantown loss put the ’Jacks into a must-win game against Eveleth-Gilbert in their third game of the day. Freshman Chandler Beaupre pitched a complete game and allowed only seven hits – but four errors behind her helped lead to three unearned runs.
Cloquet rallied from 2-0 and 4-1 deficits to tie the game at 4-4 in the fourth inning, but another unearned run meant the ’Jacks had to rally from 5-4 down in the last of the seventh to prolong their season.
Junior Kelly Carlson and seniors Mariah Smith and Katie Schulz had hits in the inning to go along with two Golden Bear errors, with Schulz singling in Carlson with the winning run in the 6-5 victory.
“It was a tough win but very satisfying,” Tondryk said. “The adjustment in pitching was difficult. We were ahead of this pitcher [Shelby Thoreson], who didn’t throw as hard as the Hermantown pitcher. We were patient and let the ball get deeper in the zone. We missed opportunities in this game which was frustrating because we are a good hitting team.”
Still, all’s well that ends well and the ’Jacks get another shot at Hermantown on Thursday – but they need to win twice to get to state.
“We have to be disciplined to lay off the rise ball,” said Tondryk. “If we get the ball down in the zone, our girls can hit the ball against her [Thun]. If our pitcher keeps the ball down and we get ground ball outs, we’ll stay in the game.”
Tondryk has a great deal of respect for longtime coach Tom Bang and the Hawks program.
“They have always had good pitching, for the last 10-12 years,” he said. “The last couple of years they have good speed on the bases, they can get on base and they can hit the ball. Fortunately for them, they keep coming back and have a younger group. They do a great job.”