After tallying four runs in the top of the first inning during their opening playoff game against Hermantown this week, the Cloquet baseball team was hoping their postseason vibes would continue.
The Hawks had other ideas.
Hermantown answered with a run in the first, six more in the third and several more after that as the Hawks flew past the Lumberjacks 11-4 in a Section 7AAA baseball game on a sunny morning Tuesday, May 28, at Proctor's Terry Egerdahl Memorial Field.
While Cloquet (7-11) was solidified by sophomore Zach Tyman's triple to knock in a pair of first-inning runs Tuesday, the Lumberjacks' bats then went quiet for the next six innings, unlike their opponent's.
Tuesday's losing pitcher was Cloquet sophomore Cade Anderson.
Despite their field being deemed unplayable, Hermantown (12-8) certainly was playing, and playing well, scoring 11 unanswered runs en route to a matchup with top-seeded host Grand Rapids (11-9) on Thursday, May 30.
"You could just feel the momentum change," Lumberjacks coach Rick Norrgard said when the Hawks gained the lead in the bottom of the third inning Tuesday. "And once they took it, we just couldn't get it back. We had a few chances, but we just couldn't get a big hit."
"We stopped seeing the ball as good as we did in that first inning," senior catcher Nick Baker said.
Such inconsistency has been the scene most of the spring for Cloquet, noted senior third baseman Noah Niemi.
Yet, Niemi knows they're still alive, as the fifth-seeded Lumberjacks host eighth-seeded Hibbing (3-15) in this spring's final game at Ed Mettner Field on Thursday, May 30. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
Actually, for the team's seniors - Niemi, Baker, Gavin Rasmussen and Jon Baker - it will be the last time they take to the friendly confines of the neighborhood-based park, one that holds plenty of baseball memories for the quartet.
"I love playing there," Niemi said. "I'm just going to take every pitch as my last."
"We're going to try and make our last home game a win," he continued, "one pitch at a time."
It's that pitch-by-pitch mindset that has Cloquet remaining optimistic, even after recently losing ace pitcher and Division I South Dakota State commit Jon Baker to a season-ending arm injury.
"I have total confidence in this team - if we get the bats going, we can make it hurt," said Nick Baker, Jon's twin brother. "There's nothing like taking the long way; we're just going through the back door. There's no losing anymore, otherwise we're going home."
"I think we'll be ready," Rasmussen, a shortstop, added. "It's must-win."
If that's the case, a win would move the Lumberjacks onto Saturday, June 1, in Lindstrom, with potential semifinal and final contests awaiting June 4 and 5.