'Jacks ride Paul to tournament win

The Cloquet senior has been playing with a fracture in her foot for over a month.

Sophie Diver (6) of Cloquet hits the ball against Grand Rapids during a softball game on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin /

Cloquet senior Amanda Paul struck out 11 batters in the Lumberjacks’ 7-0 home win over Grand Rapids in the opening round of the Section 7AAA tournament Wednesday, June 2.

Paul held the Thunderhawk batters in check throughout the game, allowing three hits over seven innings.

“Amanda’s been a bull for us,” Cloquet coach Tyler Korby said. “She's been doing that for us all season. She’s confident in the circle and nothing really rattles or fazes her. We ride on her shoulders and she’s just a great kid.”

Cloquet senior Amanda Paul gets ready to make a pitch during the Lumberjacks playoff win over Grand Rapids Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /


The only trouble Paul ran into was in the top of the sixth inning when the first two Grand Rapids hitters got on base after uncharacteristic throwing errors by the Lumberjack defense. Paul responded by getting Lindsey Tulla to pop out and struck out the next two batters to end the threat.

Paul said “it’s no fun” when the bases are empty and she likes the pressure having runners behind her.

“I get fueled from that,” Paul said. “I have enough confidence in myself that I know I’m going to go straight at these batters and I’m going to get them, period. That’s how it is and I don’t question it at all.”

Adrienne Venditto (2) of Grand Rapids reacts as Lindsay Racine (5) of Grand Rapids chases a fly ball deep in left field against Cloquet during a softball game on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin /

Cloquet batters stepped in with some timely hits to support their pitcher. Justice Paro scored after a one-out triple in the bottom of the second inning and Jordyn Sorensen drove Carly Johnson home to give the Lumberjacks a 2-0 lead.

Cloquet got two more runs in the fifth and three in the sixth inning, highlighted by a two-RBI double by sophomore Roena Diver.

“We really focused this week on quality at-bats,” Korby said. “We had some great ones today, whether it was a two-strike count or moving a runner over. What we like to do is put the ball in play and put that pressure on the defense to make a play.”


Roena Diver (1) of Cloquet scores a run at home plate against Grand Rapids during a softball game on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin /

Playing hurt

With the way Paul has performed this season, it would likely come as a surprise to most people that she’s spent much of her time off the field in a walking boot this spring.

A little over a month ago, she said her right foot started hurting and a trip to the doctor revealed a fracture. There wasn’t a specific incident, according to Paul, but it likely was caused by overuse.

Despite the diagnosis, she made the choice to keep playing. The injury made it difficult to pitch early on, but she said the boot has helped relieve much of the pain, especially in the early innings.

Lindsay Racine (5) of Grand Rapids is hit by a pitch from Cloquet during a softball game on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin /

“I was told to stay off it but it’s my senior year and I’m not going to back down,” she said. “It’s just another obstacle that I’m climbing right over.”


Her coach found himself more than impressed with her commitment and perseverance through the pain.

“There never was any hesitation for her to want to go,” Korby said. “She’s the kid we ride and there’s nobody else we want to go with ... She’s just an absolute warrior of a kid to go out there all season long and battle with it.”

With the win, Cloquet (13-5) advanced to play North Branch at 11 a.m. Saturday at Braun Park in Cloquet. The Lumberjacks held an 8-5 lead the teams’ only meeting earlier this year, but the Vikings scored five unanswered runs to take a 10-8 win.

Cloquet 7, Grand Rapids 0

WP: Amanda Paul 7IP, 3H, 10K, BB. LP: Hannah Kinnunen 6IP, 8H, 7R, 6K. C: Brynn Martin 2x4, 2R; Roena Diver 2x4, 2B, 3RBI; Justice Paro 1x2, 3B, RBI. GR: Adrienne Venditto 2x4; Addie Linder 1x2.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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