Cloquet softball brings experience back to the fieldThe Cloquet softball team is preparing to enter its six-week season armed with one of the most experienced infields in the region – and high hopes for the coming spring.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Cloquet softball team is preparing to enter its six-week season armed with one of the most experienced infields in the region – and high hopes for the coming spring.
“We got real excited in March when the weather got warm early,” Coach Ron Tondryk said. “There is always a lot to be done in the gym but we have things we have to do outside as well.”
The team got outside on Monday for practice after spending nearly four weeks of preparation time in the gym.
“The girls here have been around before,” Tondryk said. “They want to get outside and have been chomping at the bit. It’s still not great weather, but we want to get outside at the right time.”
Tondryk says the team needs to get onto dirt for infield practice and also to work on the first long throws of the season.
“Those are the things we miss when we’re indoors,” he said. “You can only do so many ground balls on the gym floor.”
Once outside, though, the experienced ’Jacks will bring plenty to the table this spring.
“We have six starters coming back and seven seniors in total,” Tondryk said. “They are a great group of kids, they work hard, they are good ballplayers and are fun to watch and coach.”
The infield will be solid.
Senior Dalyce Gustafson is a five-year starter at shortstop.
“Everything is going around her offensively and defensively,” Tondryk said. “She is the stalwart at shortstop.”
Gustafson will team with senior Kelli Carlson at second base.
“That double play combination is one of the best in the state,” Tondryk said. “Shania Paulson has been all conference for two years and plays third base just fine for us, and we have Alyssa Michaelson at first. Lizz Jezierski is a five-year starter behind the plate for us too. She runs the infield and does a great job.”
Senior Kayla Massessa plays center field. “She’s a three-year starter, too, and you want to be strong up the middle,” Tondryk said. “We feel we are. We are blessed.”
On the mound, Chandler Beaupre will be the primary pitcher in her first full varsity season.
“She has been working hard all winter,” Tondryk said. “She has been working on her speed and location. She will do a nice job for us.”
Behind Beaupre there is a logjam of young players waiting for varsity time.
“Alex Oakes and Kaylee McMillen have been working hard all season and have improved from last year,” Tondryk said. “One of those two will probably be on the varsity and Kristi Anderson is looking for a spot, too. It’s a nice problem to have.”
The team will also have spots open in left and right field.
“Sammy Zeadow is working hard to be a starter and we also have Averi Handcock to push her,” Tondryk said. “Abbey Wangen and Breanne Baker are also shooting for playing time with Jade Benko, who also is our backup catcher.”
With that much experience returning, hopes are high but expectations are realistic.