Carlton closes best season in school historyDespite a host of accomplishments this spring, the Carlton softball team had one more item to cross off its checklist last week: A first ever trip to the state tournament.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Despite a host of accomplishments this spring, the Carlton softball team had one more item to cross off its checklist last week: A first ever trip to the state tournament.
Scratching off that inaugural goal will have to wait at least another year. The Bulldogs were tipped by Cherry-Cotton 2-1 in a thrilling Section 7A championship game at Braun Park last Thursday in Cloquet.
Tied 1-1 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Tigers’ Macey Etter ripped Megan Bodin’s high pitch deep to the left field fence to score Angel Dahl from third base before the park exploded. Like that, Cherry-Cotton was heading to state and Carlton was finished.
“It was a good game,” Carlton coach Denny Johnson said, noting there were no errors. “Probably the best one I’ve ever been a part of. We played right with them. It just went their way.”
The Tigers – who sit with a 24-1 record as the state’s third best team in Class A this spring – are making a return trip to North Mankato this weekend for the state tournament. The two-time section champs have rarely been challenged this spring, with the exception of last Thursday evening.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” Johnson said. “The game could have swung our way, it just didn’t. But we walked out of there with our heads held high. Just like we talked about all
As Etter stepped to the plate with Dahl just 60 feet from home, Carlton senior catcher McKinzie Belanger remembered giving the signal for an inside pitch. Etter smacked the first one she saw.
“They hadn’t been hitting inside pitches all day,” Belanger recalled. “It was just left a little high and she got a good hit. I’ve got to give her props. I would have never expected it. That hit was amazing.”
Etter finished the game 3-for-4. Her game-winning drive broke the hearts of the Bulldogs, who were playing in their school’s first ever section softball championship game.
“I was so nervous,” Belanger said. “My whole first bat I was shaking, and the end was so nerve-racking. I think everyone was nervous.”
With nerves running throughout warms-ups and up to the final pitch, Brooke Camps paced the Bulldogs with her 2-for-3 day at the plate, while Megan Nelson ripped a double. Bodin took the loss in the circle, allowing 10 Tigers hits.
Despite the difficult defeat, Johnson was positive afterward.
“I was proud of the girls,” he said. “It was probably hard for them to realize it right away, but looking back, this loss was a good way to end the season. We played well. We did all year. And we can use this season as model for the future.”
They certainly can.
Although they didn’t get any state recognition, the Bulldogs were as tough as any Class A team around. They finished the season crowned Polar League champs with a 16-3 overall mark, a team well-deserving of a section final.
“Yeah, we didn’t go to state, but we accomplished so much,” Belanger said. “I think this year was the best thing that could have happened to all of us. It was a lot of fun.”
“We had goals and we surpassed them,” he said. “We had a heck of a game with Cherry [-Cotton]. This program is really doing well. We should do quite well for quite a while.”
If this spring was any indication of what’s in store for the Bulldogs’ future, well, Johnson and the
Carlton girls have a lot to look
“This year was so memorable,” Belanger said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”