Cloquet softball ends season in section finalThe Cloquet softball team was looking for a way to reach Hermantown ace pitcher Katie Thun, and thought they had one. After Thun defeated the ’Jacks in the semifinals of the Section 7AA softball tournament, coaches said the key to victory was to lay off Thun’s devastating riseball.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet softball team was looking for a way to reach Hermantown ace pitcher Katie Thun, and thought they had one.
After Thun defeated the ’Jacks in the semifinals of the Section 7AA softball tournament, coaches said the key to victory was to lay off Thun’s devastating riseball.
Unfortunately, in last Thursday’s Section 7AA final, the Hawks pitcher repeated her mastery on the mound. The sophomore shut out the ’Jacks on five hits as the Hawks defeated Cloquet 4-0 in Cohasset.
Hermantown has won Section 7AA the last 10 times they have been entered in the tournament, with time out for a few years in Section 7AAA.
The big hit came in the sixth inning when junior Shawna Johnson homered off Denise Rodd to snap a scoreless tie. The Hawks went on to score all four of their runs in the inning.
“We didn’t get the timely hits,” Cloquet coach Ron Tondryk said. “We got five hits off her (Thun) and I thought we did a great job laying off the riseball. We knew we could beat her and we did beat her earlier in the spring (a 5-4 win in regular season play). We just didn’t capitalize.”
The ’Jacks had runners in scoring position but didn’t advance a runner past second base. Thun struck out 10 Cloquet batters.
“Hermantown found a way to get it done,” Tondryk said. “They capitalized on our mistakes. That is what they have done over the years.”
The ’Jacks (14-6) finished second in the Lake Superior Conference.
“Our goals were to win games, win the conference, get into the final four and make it to the state tournament,” Tondryk said. “We didn’t reach our ultimate goal. We didn’t get to state. But when you step back and look at it, there are a lot of teams who want to be in our position. We had a successful year. We had more wins than last year, and we return a strong nucleus of kids.”
“We thought this was our year and we didn’t get it.”
However, six of the nine starters will be back next season.
“If we can get everyone playing together and working hard, and get some luck which you have to have in this game, we will have a shot,” Tondryk said. “It goes back to square one for us. We have to do the fundamentals correctly and play the game hard.”
“They get their work in and know what the coaching staff expects. I give them credit because they work hard. No complaints about that, that is what I am most proud of.”
The team now says goodbye to five seniors.
“Denise Rodd did a great job and has been around the program forever,” Tondryk said of his star pitcher. “She threw a no-hitter in the first round of the sections, and loves the game. We will miss her presence on the mound. Haley Sobczak was her backup, and did a great job when she got the chance to play. Makenzie Korby is one of the great captains we have had, she works hard and she’s a leader. We moved her from left to right field this year, and she always did what was best for the team.”
“Mariah Smith was our designated hitter and had a lot of key hits for us,” Tondryk said. “Katie Schulz played left field for us, did a real nice job for us all season and had the winning hit in the section final four against Eveleth. We will miss all of them, but with what we have at the younger levels, we think the youngsters will fill the void.”
The key to a return trip to the final four next season will lie in summer leagues.
“We have all but a few kids in summer leagues, and we have teams at U-14, U-16 and U-18,” Tondryk said. “We have between 35 and 50 games scheduled for all three teams, and with 11-13 kids on each team, that’s a lot of playing time. They need to play the game, experience game situations, throw and field a lot and fine-tune their skills.”
“The girls have done a great job,” Tondryk said. “They worked hard. They worked their butts off. I’m very proud of our hitters (Cloquet hit well over .300 as a team). That’s phenomenal.”
“We had a great year,” he added.