Lumberjacks aim for consistency as playoffs loom

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Results have been a bit of a mixed bag for the Cloquet softball team over the last week.

On Tuesday, the Lumberjacks ran headlong into one of the area's top pitchers in a 6-0 loss at Superior. Brandie Goldberg allowed two hits — including a double by Kiana Bender — and two walks while striking out 12 Cloquet batters. Josie Steen worked four innings and took the loss for Cloquet, allowing six hits and all six runs in four innings.

The loss comes after a 7-6 setback at Virginia on Monday and a 1-1-1 record at the Simley Invitational tournament over the weekend. Cloquet stands at 6-5-1 heading into its last seven games of the regular season.

"I think some of those losses need to be put in perspective," coach Ron Tondryk said. "We played three games on Saturday and we aren't used to that. We got a little tired in the third game (a 7-5 loss to South St. Paul) and we didn't execute defensively. Those are definitely beatable teams."

That tournament started with a 3-0 win over Richfield, but the second game was an 8-8 tie with Simley that ended under tournament rules after 90 minutes of play.

"That was hard," Tondryk said. "They just ended the second game and moved on to keep everything on track."

Harder still for Tondryk was seven Cloquet errors in the Simley game.

"We didn't execute defensively and gave up quite a few unearned runs," he said. "It's hard to win a game when you make two errors, much less seven."

The South St. Paul game was decided by the international tie-breaker rule, which places a runner at second base with no outs.

The defensive woes continued at Virginia, when the Blue Devils scored five unearned runs in the second inning of their 7-6 win over Cloquet. "Take away that inning and it's a 6-2 game and we win," Tondryk said.

With the section playoffs approaching fast, Tondryk is going back to fundamentals.

"It's continued practice that fixes that," he said. "Hit them ground balls and make them make plays. Offensively we've been OK, but we had the bases loaded twice against Virginia with one out and didn't score runs. We left girls on base."

"These things are absolutely correctable," he added. "It's a combination of a lot of things. We have good players but sometimes they just lose concentration."

The team travels to Princeton for a four-team invitational Friday before making up a contest with Chisago Lakes on Saturday.

"These are key games," Tondryk said. "They are good games for us for the run into the playoffs."

Despite the defensive issues, Tondryk is pleased with the team's pitching.

"We preach to them that we try to throw first-pitch strikes so we can work rise balls, drop balls and changeups. It's not rocket science. They do it in the majors so we can do it in high school — hitting spots and hitting locations. But the pitching has been really good and I'm pleased. We just need to be consistent."