Cloquet 11-year-olds take second in state tournament

The Cloquet Lumberjack 11-year-old boys baseball team recently finished second in the Minnesota Baseball Tournament. Playing at the Kent Hrbek Complex in Bloomington, Minn., the Cloquet squad fell 6-5 in extra innings to Orono in the championship...

The Cloquet Lumberjack 11-year-old boys baseball team recently finished second in the Minnesota Baseball Tournament. Playing at the Kent Hrbek Complex in Bloomington, Minn., the Cloquet squad fell 6-5 in extra innings to Orono in the championship game.

Cloquet began play in the 32-team tournament as the seventh seed. In pool play, Cloquet faced Red Wing, Kasson-Mantorville and Woodbury.

  • In their opening game against Red Wing, the Lumberjacks won by a 3-1 score in extra innings. The game was one of three extra inning games the team would play in the tournament.

"Brandon Conklin, Gavin Takkunen and Nate Weets combined to hold Red Wing to four hits while striking out 12," recalled coach Dennis Conklin. "We scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning on a two-run, two-out double by Dylan Michaud to win the game."

  • Game two of pool play saw Cloquet 5-2 over Kasson-Mantorville as Weets, Takkunen and Conklin combined for the win by scattering seven hits.

"Conklin entered the game with two outs in the fifth inning and closed it out by striking out three of the four batters he faced," explained Conklin. "Zach Gerlach led of the game with a triple and later scored the first of his two runs and Nate O'Hara had two hits and an RBI in the game as well."

  • In the final game of pool play Cloquet lost 9-4 to Woodbury as Christian Pritchett had two hits and an RBI. However, Cloquet advanced into the 16-team single-elimination championship bracket.
  • In the first game of championship play, Cloquet downed the No. 9 seed, Bloomington, in another extra-inning affair, this time by a score of 7-5.

Bloomington jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but Cloquet bounced back to take the lead in the third on back-to-back doubles by Mason Brenner and Nick Niemi.
Niemi later scored on a single by Pritchett.


"We took a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, but let up, and they scored three runs," Conklin stated. "In extra innings we were able to get out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the seventh inning."

Mason Brenner entered the game to pitch for Cloquet with the bases loaded and no one out. Brenner fanned the first batter, the next batter bunted the ball back to the mound where Brenner fielded the ball and threw home for the force out and the second out.

"The third out came on a passed ball that our catcher Chase Keye hustled to and threw a strike to Brenner waiting at home to make the tag," Conklin said. "Both teams went scoreless in the eighth and then we got two runs across in the ninth inning on RBIs by Michaud and Niemi."

  • Cloquet then defeated Lakeville North 2-1 in the quarterfinals on a Conklin and Weets pitching gem as the duo combined to allow one run on three hits.

"Lakeville had just defeated No. 1-ranked Mankato the game before," remarked Conklin. "We came back again from a 1-0 deficit to score two runs in our last at bat."
Michaud led off the sixth with a walk, Brenner laid down a sacrifice bunt that was thrown down the right field line, allowing Michaud to score from first.

On the throw, Brenner advanced to second and then a pitch later he advanced to third on a wild pitch. Gerlach then delivered an RBI single to score Brenner with the winning run.

  • In semifinal action, Cloquet downed Glen Lake-Hopkins by a 3-2 score after trailing early in the game.

"As it was all weekend long, we were able to come back despite trailing 2-0," Conklin mentioned. "In the fourth inning, with Glen Lake leading 2-0, we erupted for three runs."
Gerlach led off with a single and that was followed by a single from Conklin one out later. O'Hara then ripped a towering double to cut the lead to 2-1 and put runners on second and third. Weets and Keye then followed with back-to-back singles with two outs giving the Lumberjacks the lead.

"Brenner, Takkunen and Pritchett combined for the win giving up two runs on 12 hits," said Conklin. "The highlight of the game was our ability to pick off the tying run at first on a designed pick off play."

  • Cloquet then lost in the state championship game to Orono 6-5 despite having an early 4-0 lead.

"We jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first," explained Conklin. "Gerlach led with a single and was sacrificed to second by Pritchett. Conklin followed with an RBI single, O'Hara then smashed another double and then we got three consecutive RBI singles from Weets, Keye and Michaud."
In the third inning, Orono bounced back to cut the lead to 4-3. However, the Jacks responded with another run in the fourth when Takkunen led off with a walk and later scored on a wild pitch.


Orono tied the score in the fifth inning with a pair of runs. After a scoreless sixth inning, the game went to extra innings.

"We went scoreless in the top of the seventh," commented Conklin. "Orono was able to put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh to push the winning run across."

Cloquet played outstandingly well defensively during the tournament as they committed just seven errors in seven games, which is nearly impossible in 11-year-old ball. For the tournament Cloquet gave up just two unearned runs.

Team members include Zach Gerlach, Christian Pritchett, Brandon Conklin, Nate O'Hara, Gavin Takkunen, Nate Weets, Chase Keye, Dylan Michaud, Mason Brenner, Nick Niemi and Wyatt Benson.

Sponsors for the team included Benson Chiropractic, Weets Flat Work and Michaud Distributors who distribute both Kandiyohi and Chippewa Water in the area.

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