Cloquet VFW winning when it matters most - in the postseason

ESKO, Minn. - After losing their last four regular season games this summer, the chances the Cloquet VFW baseball team would advance from the sub-district tournament this week weren't very high.

Taylor Blundell pitches for the Cloquet VFW against Duluth Central at Esko Monday. Blundell picked up the 11-1 win. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

ESKO, Minn. - After losing their last four regular season games this summer, the chances the Cloquet VFW baseball team would advance from the sub-district tournament this week weren't very high.

But this week in Esko, they got on a hot streak.

With a tough one-run 8-7 loss to Hermantown and an 11-1 mercy rule drubbing of Duluth Central, the Lumberjacks have now put themselves in good position to advance from the sub-districts and make their way to the district tournament this weekend in Duluth.

"We threw the ball, caught the ball and just played good baseball today," said Cloquet VFW head coach Bryan Anderson about his boys' split Monday afternoon in Esko. "It was just so nice to see us play so well. We started hitting early and we did a lot of the little things right. That's what it takes to win ball games and we're doing just that at the right time of year."

In game one action against Hermantown, the Lumberjacks started with an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first before the Hawks scored a pair in the bottom and made it 3-2 after one inning of play. Hermantown then tied the game up 3-3 after the second and the score then remained tied until the fifth inning.


In the fifth, Cloquet tallied three runs to take a 6-3 advantage, while later in the bottom of the sixth, Hermantown answered back again with three to knot the game at 6-6 going into the seventh. In the final inning, the 'Jacks scratched across one run to go up 7-6. However, a Cloquet error and interference call in the bottom half led to a pair of runs for the Hawks and an 8-7 Hermantown victory.

Cloquet catcher Cole Johnson led the way for the Lumberjacks with three hits versus the Hawks, while second baseman Eric Peterson racked up three RBIs on a pair of singles. Pitcher Adam Hanson added two base knocks, including a double, while also took the complete game loss on the hill despite fanning eight batters on strikes.

"I thought we played well against Hermantown," Anderson said about his club. "We started solid, but a few too many mental mistakes just cost us in the end and we let the game slip away."

In the second half of their sub-district doubleheader Monday afternoon, Cloquet clashed with Duluth Central. Cloquet started hot, leading 4-0 after two innings and having a 4-1 advantage after three. As their biggest game of the season rolled on, the Lumberjacks blew open their three-run lead in the top of the sixth, scoring seven runs. In doing so, they shutout the Trojans in the bottom en route to the mercy rule 11-1 win in six innings.

Lumberjack outfield Joey Singpiel guided the club to victory by smashing out a pair of two-run homers in the top of the first and sixth innings. Johnson again roped out three hits, including a double and a triple, as he collected three RBIs in the contest. Cloquet pitcher Taylor Blundell went the distance for the 'Jacks and picked up the big-time victory.

"Taylor pitched extremely well for us. His off-speed stuff was working and he was keeping the ball down and at the knees all day long," said Anderson about his sophomore hurler. "And I don't know where our hitting came from. We just waited for good pitches and hit the ball all over the place."

Hitting the ball all over the place consistently is something the 'Jacks have struggled to do all summer long, but in their most recent two games, they've done it better than anyone.

"These past two playoff games, it's been like a whole different team," Anderson said. "We're just seeing the ball well and doing all the little things."


The Lumberjacks will likely to advance to the district tournament this weekend in Duluth, and they are ready.

"The playoffs are always the best time of the year," Anderson said. "Teams need to be playing their best and we sure are playing our best. We're just catching fire at the right time and it's starting to become a whole lot of fun around here."

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