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BASEBALL ROUNDUP: Cloquet comes up short against rival East

After the Cloquet baseball team's first loss on Ed Mettner Field this spring -- a 7-3 setback to rival Duluth East Monday evening -- Gavin Takkunen may have put it best when the Lumberjacks' senior centerfielder summed up their play.

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After the Cloquet baseball team’s first loss on Ed Mettner Field this spring - a 7-3 setback to rival Duluth East Monday evening - Gavin Takkunen may have put it best when the Lumberjacks’ senior centerfielder summed up their play.

“We struggled on the mound, we struggled at the plate and we struggled in the field,” Takkunen explained. “You put those three things together and you’ll lose every time.”

Losing isn’t commonplace for Cloquet (4-2), a team that is a perennial Section 7AA finalist and one built around solid pitching, fundamental defense and timely hitting. Mix that with their six experienced seniors - five of whom pitch - and the Lumberjacks look like one of the best teams around.

The Greyhounds, however, showed Cloquet they aren’t the only fish in the pond, as Duluth East - which trailed 3-2 after three innings - took advantage of several Lumberjack lapses, scoring two runs in the top of the fourth and three more the sixth to eventually distance themselves.

Takkunen, who pitches, didn’t do so on Tuesday, but seniors Mason Brenner and Hunter Roberts did, along with sophomore hurler Dylan Johnson. Roberts, a righty, admitted he didn’t throw strikes - allowing four runs in just two innings of work - as he said the team wasn’t prepared.

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“We just had a bunch of mental errors,” said Roberts, a member of a team that was even picked off the bases on a couple occasions Monday. “It was just a bad day. But after today, we just have to continue working harder each day.”

“We didn’t play very well as a team,” added Cloquet Coach Rick Norrgard. “We didn’t throw as many strikes as we usually do, we didn’t run the bases well and we missed some cuts in the outfield. It just wasn’t a very clean game.”

Norrgard reminded his team - which also lost at Andover 7-6 last Saturday after winning its first four contests - that it’s still April. He noted they need to learn from their mistakes from games like Monday and always come ready.

“I think the last couple of days were a little reality check,” Norrgard said. “We’re a good baseball team, but we have to show up and play. We have to come to play every day. And play well. In playoffs is when we want to be at our best.”

The best hitter for Cloquet Monday was junior Gabe Sorenson, who had two RBIs off winning hurler Lucas Hedin.

Still, some think Cloquet - 7AA runners-up last year - are the favorites around here. Nor are they lacking confidence.

“Every loss stings - we expect to win,” Takkunen said. “We’re still getting the kinks out, but the way you play at the start of the year is nowhere near where you play at the end.”

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Unfortunately, the end of the season may be near for Barnum pitcher/shortstop Mitchell Weller, as the senior injured his knee during his first at-bat Tuesday in a 7-0 loss at Cook County. That's a detrimental hit to a one-win team that already hasn't won in almost three weeks.

The Bombers, which have been plagued by a multitude of errors so far this season, made two on Tuesday and three more Monday at home in an 11-4 defeat to Polar League neighbor Moose Lake-Willow River.

"It's been tough all around," said Barnum junior Christopher Carlson, a pitcher/shortstop who hit a double against the Rebels. "We're a good team - we just make a lot of mental mistakes. We just have to learn from them, which I think we can do here these next couple weeks and develop into the team that we should be."

Moose Lake-Willow River, a four-win squad, didn't allow any runs until Monday’s game at Barnum. Outscoring their foes now 39-8, the Rebels lost 4-1 to league rival Esko Tuesday in Moose Lake, but that isn't keep the spirits down in the dugout.

"We're really meshing right now," said senior pitcher/shortstop Brad Fossum. "We've just been playing for so long together - the amount of games is unbelievable. We have a great atmosphere, and when you have nine really good friends all out there on the baseball field, it usually makes a pretty good team."

Carlton's baseball team got their second win - other than their first over Barnum - when they edged Hill City 6-2 Monday at Chub Lake Park. Senior hurler Dom Bennett was the winning pitcher. Coach Ryan Schmidt said his young Bulldog bunch is beginning to come around.

"I think we're starting to hit our stride, as we look to play our best at the right time," Schmidt said. "We're continuing to get better everyday - that's what we talk about. If we do that, we'll be looking good by playoff time."

Speaking of time, Wrenshall will not have any of it this week, at least for game action, as the still winless Wrens' schedule is empty with a senior class trip to Washington, D.C.

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"It's an off-week," said Coach Doug Frank, who has 10 seniors on his roster of 16.

 

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