Carlton falls short in finalsStanding nervously on third base during the final inning of the Section 7A championship game, Carlton’s Grace Macor watched the umpire call teammate Christy Eggert out on strikes. And just like that, the game was done and the Bulldogs season was over.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Standing nervously on third base during the final inning of the Section 7A championship game, Carlton’s Grace Macor watched the umpire call teammate Christy Eggert out on strikes. And just like that, the game was done and the Bulldogs season was over.
“I started crying,” said the 15-year-old Macor. “I never cry in anything, but then, I just began to cry.”
Emotions ran deep on both sides after Cherry advanced to its third consecutive state tournament with a slim 3-1 victory over the Bulldogs last Thursday at Portage Park in Cohasset, Minn.
Playing in a rematch of last year’s section final, the Tigers were lifted by Kristin Lahti’s two-run homer in the opening inning, while Angel Dahl drove in another in the second to keep top-ranked Cherry (23-0) unbeaten.
Carlton leadoff hitter Brooke Camps led the Bulldogs (16-6) with a pair of hits, including a last-inning double after a Macor single. Camps, like Macor, watched the final out standing on second base.
“I just kind of stood there for a minute and then went to shake hands,” the junior said of their late rally that fell short. “We were just so close.”
Close games are common between the two teams. A year ago, the Bulldogs were bettered 2-1 by the Tigers for the title, and this year in regular season play, the Tigers won 4-1 and 3-1. Carlton Coach Denny Johnson said last week’s game was again nip-and-tuck between the pair of small schools.
“Many people from Cherry told me we were the strongest competition they had seen all year long,” Johnson said. “Darrell [Bjerklie] has a good team up there, but we didn’t give them anything. We played them tough and held our heads high, but just couldn’t bring her home.”
Johnson explained his Bulldogs had opportunities against the Tigers, leaving the bases loaded at times and stranding multiple girls in scoring position. Johnson said Camps scored their only run on a pass ball.
“We had plenty of chances with runners on base,” he said. “We hit the ball hard, but we never hit it timely and just didn’t get the runs across.”
Despite going the distance, Macor took the loss in the circle for the Bulldogs. The freshman hurler gave Cherry credit for their win.
“They are a respectable team that knows how to play ball,” she said. “They can hit, field and bunt. They know what to do and like to get in people’s heads. It hurts knowing we played our best and still came up short, but looking back, there’s nothing we could have done differently that would have changed things. We played a great game against them.”
Waiting in the on-deck circle as Eggert recorded the final out, Carlton senior first baseman Megan Nelson said the ending was hard to watch, but she’s had some time to reflect on their program’s gains.
“I’ve thought about it a lot,” said Nelson, who helped bring the Bulldogs to their only section championship appearances in school history this year and last. “I’ve enjoyed things a lot.”
Nelson graduated last week and will play softball at the University of Wisconsin-Superior next spring. She, Eggert, Alanna Groth and Megan Bodin will all be sadly missed, according to Camps.
“Definitely,” Camps said. “We have some young girls coming up, but we can’t replace those seniors. We’ve all played together for so long. It’ll take some work to get back to where we are, but we’re hoping we can.”
One more veteran is leaving the team. Johnson said Tuesday he will retire from the program, noting things are in good hands. He said he’ll likely be in attendance again next spring, supporting the team at home games at Chub Lake Park.
“Probably all of them,” he said with a laugh. “These girls love to play ball and the cupboard isn’t empty. Carlton softball looks promising.”