Lumberjacks pitch to victory

As a varsity point guard in for the Cloquet boys basketball team, Nate Weets uses his right hand to dribble past his opponents with the basketball. Using a baseball come spring, the same rules apply. Weets applied an array of speeds and movements...

Nate Weets throws a pitch for the Cloquet baseball team in the first game of a doubleheader vs Duluth Denfeld on Tuesday afternoon at Mettner Field. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal

As a varsity point guard in for the Cloquet boys basketball team, Nate Weets uses his right hand to dribble past his opponents with the basketball.

Using a baseball come spring, the same rules apply.

Weets applied an array of speeds and movements, as the Cloquet sophomore right-handed pitcher threw the Lumberjacks past Duluth Denfeld 13-3 in six innings. Cloquet later won 9-4 and swept a Lake Superior Conference doubleheader from the Hunters Tuesday under a lighted Ed Mettner Field.

Weets said it was his first varsity victory.

"I was really shaky in the first, but I started hitting my spots and everything went good," said Weets, adding this is his first full-time season on varsity. "I pitched a little last year, but now I have a bigger role. Playing basketball has given me a lot of varsity experience. I just take every game as just another game."


In Tuesday's game, Weets struck out five batters and issued just four hits in his complete six-inning outing. Cloquet Coach Rick Norrgard said Weets walked three batters, but was most impressed with how his underclassman bettered throughout.

"He got stronger as the game went on," Norrgard said. "We're very lucky. We have some good and young talented pitchers who can throw the ball. We have a good problem."

Eight other players contribute to the Lumberjacks' youthful pitching staff, which boasts only one senior, Kaleb Kadelbach. Junior Ben Merrill earned Tuesday's second win, while freshman Koby Bender recorded the seven-out save.

"I don't think any of them are deer in the headlights," Norrgard said. "They're all confident they can go out there and throw."

And with a shortened season such as this, a pitching staff like Cloquet's could play in their favor in the upcoming weeks.

"With five or six games per week for the next three weeks, you have to have a lot of arms," Norrgard continued. "The teams who don't have that much depth are going to have things tough."

The Lumberjacks' hitting was also tough Tuesday. Norrgard pointed out that Jeff Sarkela, Gavin Takkunen, Dylan McIvor and Travis Bartlett all had multiple hits, as Cloquet (4-2) strung together its fourth consecutive victory.

"We seem to be playing better every game," Norrgard said.


Sophomore ace Brandon Conklin, who pitched past visiting Greenway Monday evening along with Kadelbach, agreed.

"This year we have nine strong pitchers that can take the heat during a game," Conklin said. "We'll need all of the arms that we can get. They are all going help us out in the long run."

In their four wins, Cloquet marked three of those at home, where in just over 24 hours, five different players pitched.

"I didn't realize that until now," Conklin said. "That's a lot."


Barnum buried a pair of league foes in Tuesday's doubleheader, as the host Bombers -- coached by Tony Bender -- first beat Cook County 14-6 and then McGregor-Cromwell-Wright 12-1 within five innings.

Carlton creamed McGregor-Cromwell-Wright in a league shutout on the road last week, as Ryan Schmidt later saw his Bulldogs fall to Hinckley-Finlayson. Tuesday's statistics with Silver Bay were not available at press time.

Esko edged Moose Lake-Willow River 11-8 in a conference win Tuesday, before being halted 9-6 at Hinckley-Finlayson. Coach Ben Haugen said his Eskomos are playing only road games this season because the school's fields are under construction. His crew earlier split a pair of games with Floodwood at the Metrodome.


McGregor-Cromwell-Wright was no match for Barnum Tuesday in a shortened 12-1 loss on the road. The Mercuries, coached by Jon Jacobs, are winless thus far, being outscored 26-5 within three games.

Moose Lake-Willow River ran into rival Esko and an 11-8 league defeat Tuesday. The Rebels, headed by first-year Coach Matt Niedzielski, also hosted Cook County Tuesday. Information on that game was not available at press time.

South Ridge remained idle Tuesday as Coach Travis Paulson and the Panthers postponed yet another game. South Ridge, opening a new complex in Culver this year, has reported a lone loss with Deer River.

Wrenshall was blanked 19-0 in five innings at Floodwood Tuesday, as the Wrens, coached by Doug Frank, opened varsity play.

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