Carlton claws its way back to face Cherry-Cotton in Section 7A finalsLosing a playoff game isn’t easy to take. Most teams hang their heads, lose their confidence and quickly thereafter, end their season. Not Carlton though. They did the opposite Tuesday.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Losing a playoff game isn’t easy to take. Most teams hang their heads, lose their confidence and quickly thereafter, end their season.
Not Carlton though. They did the opposite Tuesday.
Following a disappointing 3-2 loss to Mesabi East, the Bulldogs bounced back to rout Floodwood 7-2 and then got revenge on the Giants with a 4-0 shutout in the Section 7A Final Four Tuesday at Braun Park in Cloquet.
Now, they’ll be playing for all the marbles. Thursday, the Bulldogs will challenge top-ranked Cherry-Cotton in the Section 7A championship game at Braun Park.
“I told the girls that my proudest moment of the day was when they walked off the field after losing to Mesabi East,” Carlton Coach Denny Johnson said. “They walked off their field with their heads held high and then came back for two more wins.”
“We just knew that we had to keep our heads up and come into our next game strong,” said junior pitcher Megan Bodin. “We then went in strong and finished strong. We were ready to go.”
In their first game, Carlton trailed Mesabi East all game until they tied things 2-2 with two late runs in the top of the seventh inning, only to allow the Giants to win 3-2 on a throwing error in the bottom half.
After that, it was win or go home.
“I was nervous,” said junior first baseman Megan Nelson. “But we pitched well, played defense and pulled things out.”
Johnson mentioned that his girls’ mental focus has been the key factor in their success. Sitting with a 16-2 record, Carlton knows how to play, and according to their coach, everyone is on the same page.
“In all my years of coaching, I’ve never had so many girls all with the same mindset,” Johnson said. “That’s huge for us.”
Tuesday, the Bulldogs were paced by Bodin, as she hurled all three games and cracked multiple hits around the park throughout the day. Bodin led Carlton with a team-best six runs batted in as well.
“I was jealous of her bat,” laughed her teammate, Nelson.
Senior Amanda Eggert, juniors Christy Eggert, Alanna Groth and sophomore Brooke Camps also had multi-hit days Tuesday afternoon.
But in Johnson’s mind, it’s
a total team effort for the
“They all contribute,” he said. “They have been that all season long. These girls have played together for such a long time together. They get along so well.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of my team,” she said. “It’s been a great experience this season. We believe in each other.”
Now the focus is on heavy-favorite Cherry-Cotton. Although the Tigers are 23-1 and ranked the third best team in Class A, Polar League champion Carlton doesn’t see themselves as underdogs.
“It’s the playoffs – anyone can beat anyone,” said Nelson. “We have to get our bats going, play defense and hold them off.”
If they’re able to do that, they’ll have to do it again. To get to state, the Bulldogs will need to win twice in the double-
“I don’t think most of the girls know we have to win two times,” Johnson laughed. “But we’re definitely capable of playing with Cherry-Cotton. We’ve watched them and they’ve watched us. Hopefully we’ll go out there and win a couple of battles Thursday.”
“We’ve accomplished a lot of our goals this season,” added Bodin. “We’re so excited. Right now, it’s all about whoever plays the best.”
Going to state would mean a lot to the small town of Carlton, according to Nelson.
“I think we can make it two games,” she said.