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Cloquet VFW struggles to find win

Cloquet's Austin Parenteau hits during Tuesday afternoon's VFW baseball game against Duluth East. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal 1 / 3
Cloquet's Jake Johnson throws for the VFW baseball team Tuesday against Duluth East. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal 2 / 3
Chanler Dilday of Cloquet gets a base hit against the Duluth East VFW during Tuesday afternoon's baseball action. Cloquet was swept 14-2 and 14-13 in the doubleheader. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal 3 / 3

Maybe the only thing chillier than the weather during Tuesday afternoon’s VFW doubleheader between Cloquet and Duluth East was the final inning for the Lumberjacks.

Clinging to a 13-10 lead in the bottom of the seventh on a cold, dreary, barely 50-degree day in Duluth, Cloquet couldn’t hang on en route to a disappointing 14-13 defeat to the Greyhounds. With their 14-2 mercy-rule loss a game earlier, the Cloquet boys were swept on the day. They currently have just one victory within their first six tries this summer.

“It was really long and really cold out,” admitted 15-year-old Cloquet pitcher and outfielder Ethan Bergman. “It was pretty rough losing that second game.”

Losing games has been a common start for Cloquet thus far. In addition to Tuesday’s sweeping loss to East, in which pitchers Jeremy Bushey and Matthew Hamann took defeats on the hill, Cloquet was doubled up by Duluth Marshall, too. Their only win was against Proctor.

Perhaps that’s because the team is young. Of the 18 players Coach Bruce Kahara has on his roster, many — like Bergman — are playing for their first year at the VFW level.

“We’re still in the learning process,” said Kahara, who is also assisted by Steve Johnson and Eric Peterson. “VFW is to develop players. Some things we are better at than in the past and others we are working at to improve for the future.”

Kahara, 67, is in his third season within the summer program and is currently coaching his second grandson to come through, Ty, another VFW rookie this year.

“Sometimes it can get a little challenging,” admitted Kahara about coaching a relative, “but I enjoy working with all of the kids. All are treated the same. All play equally.”

Johnson’s son, Jacob, is also on the team as a pitcher, while several teammates have brothers who played years past.

Peterson played infield for the VFW, Legion and graduated from Cloquet in 2013. Asked to help coach in March, the 19-year-old — also balancing daily work and online college at Bethel University — said coaching is a whole new atmosphere.

“It’s nice to get the other perspective of baseball,” Peterson said. “You learn a lot coaching. It’s a lot different.”

Peterson even created stat and pitch counting sheets for their many players on the bench. He noted they’ll be in full force Thursday at Ed Metter Field in their next home game.

“Everybody has a role,” Peterson said quickly.

“I’ve been a pitch counter,” added Bergman. “It keeps everybody doing something. It keeps the guys in the game.”