CLOQUET - Being the decorated hitter that she was growing up for Carlton, now Bulldog softball coach Melissa Clark continues to stress the importance of packing a powerful bat.

"If you can't hit, you can't win a softball game," Clark said.

That was evident earlier this week when Carlton counted just five hits in a 1-0 loss to South Ridge, followed by a two-hit defeat to Cherry 5-2 in a Section 7A softball elimination game Tuesday, May 28, at Cloquet's Braun Park.

Normally able to send balls over park's fence lines, such was not the case Tuesday for the Bulldogs' athletic lineup, as South Ridge's Malania Madill and Cherry's Lauren Staples both went the distance in downing and ousting the two-time defending champs from Carlton.

"Things weren't clicking for us," Clark said. "The unfortunate outcome is what happened today." Bulldog junior hurler Brynne Mickle was the losing pitcher in both contests, as the Panthers scored midway through game one to knock the Bulldogs down to the loser's bracket, where Cherry counted three runs - in just five batters - to open the top of the first inning.

Staples was arguably the day's most-impressive player, as the Tiger freshman had a laundry list of base hits, while the right-hander threw all 21 innings in Cherry's three consecutive elimination victories.

Meanwhile, Carlton finished the season 15-6, three wins short of retaining their title.

"It's definitely a bummer," Clark said. "I hope they grow from this."

Section 7A Playoffs

At Cloquet

South Ridge 1, Carlton 0

WP: Malania Madill 7IP, 5H, 10K, 1BB, 1HBP. LP: Brynne Mickle 7IP, 1R, 7H, 2K, 2BB. SR: Natalie Smith

RBI; Mary Lisic 2H; Natalie Lisic 2B.

Cherry 5, Carlton 2

WP: Staples 7IP, 2R, 2H. LP: Brynne Mickle. Cherry: Staples 2x3 (2B), R; Jessa Schroetter 2x4 (3B, 2B).