Youthful Cloquet Legion team getting strongerEric Peterson is no stranger to summer league baseball. An avid Little Leaguer growing up, the starting second baseman for the Cloquet American Legion team understands the season can have its ups and downs. Much like Tuesday night did.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Eric Peterson is no stranger to summer league baseball. An avid Little Leaguer growing up, the starting second baseman for the Cloquet American Legion team understands the season can have its ups and downs.
Much like Tuesday night did.
Only trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning against Lakeview in Duluth, Cloquet surrendered five runs in an inning when the wheels fell off. The eventual 7-2 defeat was their fifth this summer in seven games.
“We wished a few bounces could have gone our way in that one,” said the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Peterson. “We’re a young team that has battled hard. We just have to keep plugging away.”
Young is perhaps an understatement for Cloquet this summer. Peterson, a senior, is one of just four elder players on the roster, along with classmate Kaleb Kadelbach and recent Cloquet graduates Adam Hanson and Derek Anderson. The 10 others are all youngsters.
“We did the math, the average grade for our team is 10.4,” said Cloquet American Legion Coach Dennis Conklin Sr. “We’re young, but we’re staying tough, focused and hanging in there.”
Although Conklin said they have no excuses for their slow start to the summer, he noted injuries have plagued their team as well. His youngest son, Brandon, a sophomore, returned Tuesday after being sidelined five weeks with a broken hip suffered in high school ball.
The younger Conklin rejoins a young pitching staff that revolves around Hanson, as well as junior Victor Foxx and upcoming Cloquet right-handed sophomores Gavin Takkunen and Nate Weets.
Many of the elder Conklin’s players also play VFW ball, too.
“We have 10 guys that play both ways,” Conklin said. “We’ve been giving a good effort in Legion, but we’ve just been a little out-manned. I think the effort is there. Things will come around.”
Cloquet won its season opener against the West Duluth Cubs, a team that has now forfeited its season, according to Conklin. Cloquet also earned an impressive comeback victory over River Falls, Wis., in the Lakeview Classic Tournament two weeks ago.
Conklin noted their fielding, not the bats, needs the most work.
“Our defensive attitude needs to change,” he said. “We can hit the ball; we just have to keep improving on defense and our pitching.”
“We’ve just had too many errors and too many walks,” Peterson said about their woes in the field. “We have cut them down.”
Tuesday, Cloquet only issued one error in the nine-inning affair, as Hanson took the loss on the hill, despite only allowing six hits.
Conklin noted Hanson threw well in a competitive game. In the lopsided defeat to Lakeville in the Lakeview Classic, he said the other team sported more than half a dozen college freshmen as starters.
“We’re young and will take our lumps at times, but I like what I’m seeing lately,” Conklin said of his crew, noting they will play in the Ely Tournament this weekend. “I expect us to play very well up there.”
Cloquet will again face Lakeview, as well as St. Paul Arcade Phalen, Viroqua and the host Timberwolves in Ely this weekend.
The American Legion District playoffs will soon follow in Duluth and Hermantown July 25-28, with the state tournament to begin after that.
“We’re excited to go up north and see what we can do,” he said. “We’re going to hit it hard this week, next week and through the playoffs.”
No stranger to summer baseball, he knows that’s when it means the most.