Softball Roundup...News about Esko and other area teamsNo hit, no problem: Esko defends title
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Springtime is always busy for Esko softball player Dani Johnson.
After playing four games in less than 24 hours, the 18-year-old third baseman was honest Tuesday.
“It’s been very tough,” Johnson said. “All of us haven’t had a break in two weeks. And we’ve had to miss a lot of school.”
Though Carlton’s Grace Macor pitched a no-hitter, the Eskomos managed a 3-2 victory over the Bulldogs on a sunny Tuesday afternoon at Johnson Memorial Park in Barnum, followed by a come-from-behind 11-5 win over the Barnum Bombers. Esko repeated as the unbeaten conference champions, winning all six games in the shortened season.
“That was one of our goals, but we have bigger goals, too,” said junior pitcher Abbey Saralampi, who got the complete-game win over Carlton and earned a save against Barnum. “It was a good day; we just kept positive attitudes and stuck with it.”
Like all the area prep teams, Esko was stuck indoors for eight weeks before getting outside. Since then, the past two weeks have been crammed with scheduled and make-up games. Esko (7-4) faced Proctor and Hermantown Monday, Carlton and Barnum Tuesday, and has games for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before next week’s playoffs.
“Honestly, we’re getting tired,” Coach Brad Emanuel said. “It’s a tough go, having eight weeks in the gym, five games last week and seven this week. After the game [Tuesday], I just told them to worry about two things: your schoolwork and getting healthy.”
Emanuel noted his tired team didn’t earn a hit for 10 innings Tuesday, until sophomore shortstop Ashley Bergeson’s third-inning knock kick-started the Eskomos’ bats en route to 11 unanswered runs against Barnum in a game they trailed 5-0.
“The Barnum game got a little bit scary,” said Saralampi. “We played well, but I thought we could have played better.”
“We just have to stay focused,” Johnson added. “The spring always gets busy. But this has been a very unusual season.”
Macor looked seasoned Tuesday, but the Bulldogs (10-2) made many mistakes behind their sophomore right-hander. First-year Coach Callie Langdon said four fielding errors led to all three of Esko’s runs in the fourth inning that wasn’t the prettiest.
“Errors killed us,” said Langdon, counting up six miscues against Esko, before later beating Barnum 13-3 in five innings. “We’ll be outside in the dirt, working on our defense tomorrow.”
Barnum (4-5), meanwhile, has a couple days to practice.
“Today was a trying day,” said Bombers Coach Sarah MacDonald, noting junior pitcher Lauren Hultgren took both the days’ losses. “We had our ups and downs. I don’t know what it is, our girls just struggle with the whole doubleheader thing.”
Cloquet (5-2) continued its winning ways Tuesday evening in an 11-8 victory at Proctor. Following a pair of opening losses, the Lumberjacks — state tournament participants a season ago — have now won five consecutive contests.
Cromwell-Wright (0-9) was whacked 17-3 by visiting Hill City on Tuesday in the Cardinals’ first home game of the spring. With nine of their 11 total players being underclassmen, the Cardinals are winless and have been outscored 133-23.
Moose Lake-Willow River (6-2) romped by host Rush City 9-3 Monday. The Rebels have won four of their previous five games, while outscoring those opponents 61-20 in the stretch.
South Ridge (4-3) regained its balance in a 9-5 win over Cook County in Grand Marais Tuesday. The Panthers, playing all of their games on the road, have won three of their last four affairs.