’Jacks fall in section finals but look forward to futureIt would be easy to take a “glass half empty” approach to the Cloquet baseball team’s season – which finished one step short of the state tournament after Thursday’s 9-2 loss to Proctor in the Section 7AA championship game.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
It would be easy to take a “glass half empty” approach to the Cloquet baseball team’s season – which finished one step short of the state tournament after Thursday’s 9-2 loss to Proctor in the Section 7AA championship game.
However, that would be rough justice on the Lumberjacks (16-6) and their eight seniors, who had a great season even if it did fall one game short of the state’s biggest stage.
“The season as a whole was very successful,” Coach Rick Norrgard said. The first-year coach had plenty to like about his team and is optimistic about its future.
In the title game, the Lumberjacks couldn’t take advantage of six walks issued by Rails ace pitcher Jake Lewis, who made up for his control issues by allowing only four hits, including two each to Adam Hanson and Derek Anderson. Closer Ben Nelson finished the game on the mound for Proctor.
The Rails got a two-run homer and three RBIs from Ian Scherber and two hits each from Jimmy Merling and Paul Hegstrom to spark their win.
The ’Jacks had eliminated Hermantown on Tuesday – finishing a unique baseball-softball double playoff victory over that school – but didn’t have enough in the tank to take out the Rails and earn their second trip to state in three seasons and fourth overall.
“The best team – on that day – won the section,” Norrgard said. “Proctor gelled at the right time and played good ball at the end of the season.”
Cloquet beat Proctor 4-3 on May 10 but lost 9-7 to the Rails in the winners’ bracket of the section tournament on May 31. A win over the Hawks placed Cloquet into the section finals and Norrgard had good things to say about both opponents.
“Those are the types of programs that show what we are trying to do,” Norrgard said. “We want to build on the good program I inherited.”
On the whole, Norrgard is pleased with the season, which started in the Metrodome with a 4-0 loss to Henry Sibley but which improved steadily after that.
“We played a good schedule and played well in the tournament at Princeton [where the team went 2-1],” he said. “I was fortunate that as a first-year coach I had good assistants.”
Norrgard thanked Brent Pokornowski, Eric Hagen and Rick Stowell for their work to help him adjust.
“I was a youth coach before this season and hadn’t been a head coach,” Norrgard said. “It took a little bit of time at the beginning for me to feel like I was even part of it. I was very lucky to have coaches who have been part of it, to get me used to how things go. It was a jump for me.”
Now the team must say goodbye to eight seniors – Cole Johnson, Taylor Blundell, Derek Anderson, Adam Hanson, Trent Moe, Micah Peterson, Kellin Lamirande and Jacob Schwinn.
“The seniors provided the leadership on the team,” Norrgard said. “Those upperclassmen are important for success. They’re more mature; they handle things; they handle adversity better. You need that leadership and luckily it was there.”
Yet the cupboard is far from bare. Despite the loss of eight seniors, this year’s varsity had four freshmen and four sophomores in addition to two juniors in Eric Peterson and Kaleb Kadelbach.
“You lose those good core seniors but you have the future still coming, and that’s what you want to build a program,” Norrgard said. “Hopefully year-to-year you are at the top of the section. That is what we are looking to do.”