Softball Roundup...News about Esko and other communitiesEskomos exit playoffs
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
COHASSET — Cheers roared throughout Braun Park last Thursday as Esko third baseman Dani Johnson hit a walk-off, two-run double against the left field fence to beat Eveleth-Gilbert 5-4.
But for the second time in as many years, Esko’s cheers were later subdued by Virginia, as the Blue Devils won 3-1 in Section 7AA girls softball elimination game Tuesday afternoon at Portage Park in Cohasset. For Johnson, the team’s only senior, her last high school game was emotional. She said she cried afterward.
“I held it in until our little team meeting at the end — I love the sport so much,” said Johnson, a varsity player for the Eskomos since she was a freshman. “It’s hard losing to Virginia. Last year was heartbreaking … and this year was even more heartbreaking.”
More experienced than a year ago, Esko entered Tuesday’s game confident, but 11th-year Coach Brad Emanuel noted his team couldn’t connect off of winning pitcher Elizabeth Anderson.
“She just lulled us to sleep,” Emanuel said following the game. “That’s a team I feel we were better than, but we just didn’t come to play. We just didn’t produce at all.”
Virginia produced two runs in the top of the third inning and added another in the fourth. Losing pitcher Abbey Saralampi scored the only run for the Eskomos in the top of the seventh, when — after the junior heaver’s single — Jami Hansen hit the run-scoring double.
Despite doubling up wins last week on Two Harbors and Eveleth-Gilbert, Esko finished 11-7, short of their expectations.
“We wanted to go a little farther,” said sophomore shortstop Ashley Bergerson, who struck out twice Tuesday. “We ended it rough. Hitting-wise, we weren’t really on our A-game today.”
Bergerson is one of many who will return to an Esko program poised for the future. She said the team has a lot to look forward to, while Emanuel added the physical ability is there.
“Person for person, we have the skill to line up with about anyone,” he said, “but we just have to work on that killer instinct.”
Cloquet (12-5) had a wild ride in Section 7AA and ultimately will face Hermantown Thursday in the 7AA championship at Portage Park. The Lumberjacks dethroned the Hawks last year, en route a school-best third-place finish at State. See the Cloquet softball story on page B1.
Moose Lake-Willow River pitcher Chloe Maloney had to face both Hermantown and Cloquet in the playoffs, falling to both teams for elimination last Thursday at Braun Park. The Willow River senior said she expects it to be an entertaining final.
“I think Hermantown may have the edge,” Maloney said, “but I’m rooting for Cloquet. I’d like to see them take them out.”
In Section 7A action, Carlton was an instinctive pick to go deep in the tournament. However, without ace pitcher Grace Macor, the top-seeded Bulldogs were upset by eighth-seeded Cook County 10-6 in the first round to end their season.
Patrick Macor said Tuesday that his daughter developed the flu last Wednesday in the middle of the night. Grace, who had thrown all 84 innings for Carlton and had 118 strikeouts leading into the last week’s playoffs, was on bed rest for almost two days before missing the game, Patrick indicated.
South Ridge defeated Northland 10-2 in the opening round of Section 7A, but fell to Littlefork-Big Falls later that day 6-1. In the loser’s bracket, South Ridge topped Cook County 12-3 and Ely 13-6, but then was eliminated when the Panthers fell to Deer River 13-2 in five innings.
In Section 5A, Cromwell-Wright was eliminated in the opening round when Rush City topped the Cardinals 16-2. Barnum, meanwhile, defeated Hinckley-Finlayson 19-7 in five innings, but then were shut out by Isle 10-0 and edged by Braham 8-6 to end their season.