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SECTION 7A SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS: Carlton falls in semifinals

Carlton seventh-grader Brynn Mickle slides in safely at the plate before South Ridge junior Mallory Thibault can make a tag during Tuesday's Section 7A playoffs at Braun Park. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com FIND MORE PHOTOS AT VIEWTHROUGHMYLENS.NET1 / 4
Carlton senior Stacy Nelson makes a sliding catch in right field against South Ridge during Tuesday's Section 7A playoff game at Braun Park. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com2 / 4
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If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’re probably familiar with the Klingon proverb that “revenge is a dish best served cold.”

If you’re a Carlton softball fan, you saw those words in action on Tuesday at Cloquet’s Braun Park.

Last year, the Bulldogs lost 2-1 in eight innings to Nashwauk-Keewatin in the losers bracket of the double-elimination Section 7A tournament. Tuesday, they got their revenge, eliminating the Spartans in the same spot in the tournament by the same score — in the same number of innings, as junior Hannah Benson scored on a wild pitch to win the game.

“We remembered they beat us the same way last year,” Bulldogs Coach Callie Langdon said. “It felt nice to do the same to them.”

It was a defensive struggle, with senior Grace Macor winning in the first of three games she pitched, striking out nine while working a complete game.

“We played well against Nashwauk, we were clean in the field, and even though I’d like to have seen our bats go a bit better, they had a good young pitcher with a nice rise ball and some decent velocity. We got the bats going when we needed to and got bunts down.”

That put the Bulldogs through to the quarterfinals against South Ridge, which had eliminated Hill City 12-2 to stay alive in the event. There, the Bulldogs never trailed in an 8-5 win against South Ridge pitcher Mallory Thibault.

“We got on the bats a little better,” Langdon said. “We got up early and held the lead. The girls were starting to show a little fatigue at that point. In fact, both teams were but our girls were pumped up and when their pitcher ran into a bit of trouble we took advantage.”

Macor worked another complete game, striking out four and walking four while allowing five hits. Benson missed hitting for the cycle by only the homer, with a single, double and triple with two runs batted in. Mikayla Olesiak doubled twice and drove in a run for South Ridge.

That put the Bulldogs through to the semifinals — where they fell 3-1 to Cherry, ending their season with a record of 18-5.

In that game, the Tigers took a 3-0 lead thanks to two unearned runs against Macor, but the Bulldogs didn’t have anything left in the tank as they tried to rally.

“We had a couple of miscues on defense in the first inning and they got up on us,” Langdon said. “We couldn’t get the bats going on their pitcher for whatever reason. Whether we had trouble seeing the ball or we were tired in our third game, it was hard to say. I felt like the girls were ready to go but we just couldn’t get a big hit.”

Joely Roberts was the winning pitcher for five-time defending section champion Cherry, striking out two in six innings of work. Cherry lost an incredible game to Greenway by a 23-22 score just before beating the Bulldogs in a contest that featured 34 hits and an incredible 18 errors. Cherry must beat Greenway twice on Thursday afternoon at Braun Park to return to state.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs lose six seniors that Langdon said will be greatly missed.

“It was a great season and this was a great group of girls,” she said. “It’s been fun to have them on the team for a few years, and they’ve all put in a lot of playing time.”

But in the end, Langdon knows her team fell just short in a competitive section.

“If we had beaten Cherry, we would have played Greenway in the championship and they gave us our first loss in the tournament (8-2 on May 21). It’s tough being that close but we lost to a good team. I feel like we could just as easily have been in the finals as either of those schools but I told the girls it’s nothing to hang their heads about. We played to our potential. We just have to work hard in the off-season and get ready for next year.”

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