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Prep softball: Spartans blast Eskomos

Esko struggles with timely hitting while Superior takes advantage of miscues in the field.

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Superior’s Chesie McLaughlin (26) crushes a home run in the fourth inning of the Spartans win over Esko at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior Monday, May 17, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
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Superior senior Chesie McLaughlin struck out five batters over seven innings and hit a three-run home run to lead the Spartans to an 11-3 home win over Esko Monday, May 17.

Even when McLaughlin struggled with control, the Eskomos were unable to take advantage of the opportunities. In the third inning with Esko leading 1-0, McLaughlin walked four batters, but Esko managed only one run when Miranda Kelley scored on a passed ball. McLaughlin got junior Kaitlyn Adkins to fly out to deep center field to end the inning.

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Esko’s Lily Hanson (9) makes a throw to first base in the fourth inning of the Eskomos' loss at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior Monday, May 17, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Instead of allowing the game to get away, McLaughlin pitched her way out of the jam and left the Spartans trailing by just two runs.

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“Over the years, I’ve had trouble with that and it’s just being able to know myself and that I can do it,” McLaughlin said. “I know that the girls behind me have my back and I have to credit my catcher, Natalee (Sigfrids). She always knows the pitches to call to help me out.”

Superior coach Mike Sather wasn’t surprised McLaughlin got out of the inning allowing just one run.

“She’s played a lot of softball and, the thing is, she’s been in that situation before,” Sather said. “It’s not new to her, she’s a competitor. She’s one of those people that’s going to compete no matter what. It doesn’t matter how bad things are or how good things are going, she’s always going to give her best.”

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Superior’s Emma Raye (27) tries to turn a double play as Esko’s Avery Kuklinski (11) gets forced out at second base in the seventh inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior Monday, May 17, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

In the bottom of the fourth, Esko starter Amber Carlblom had some control issues of her own. The junior walked four batters of her own and hit another. Unlike the Eskomos, Superior was able to capitalize on the free passes and some Esko mistakes. Senior Zoie Johnson made a throwing error at third base that allowed Elise DeGraef to score after a Kaylee Baker single. Three more runs came home when McLaughlin came up with two runners on.

“I just knew right off the bat, it was going over,” McLaughlin said. “It was my pitch — it was right there.”

Esko coach Jeff Emanuel had to move Kelley over to replace Carlblom in the circle for the final out of the inning, but not before she walked in another run to leave the Eskomos down 8-2.

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We had some mental lapses and it just snowballed,” Emanuel said. “It wasn’t on Amber because Amber was hitting her spots and we weren’t making plays for her. Then they started hitting the ball a little there in the fourth.”

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Superior’s Emma Raye (27) dives towards home plate before getting tagged out by Esko’s Amber Carlblom (3) in the third inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior Monday, May 17, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Superior added three more in the bottom of the sixth after Avery Visger and Kaylee Baker drove in three runs on back-to-back singles.

Sather said he was glad to see the Spartans (12-0) battle back after some early frustrations. When they were down early, Sather said the team was “pressing” and swinging at balls out of the strike zone and making bad decisions on the base paths.

“Then they settled down and started taking some pitches and they weren’t swinging at just anything,” Sather said. “Once you start swinging at balls in the strike zone, you’re going to have more success. I think it’s a good learning experience for us to be behind and come back and understand it’s a seven inning game. You don’t have to make everything happen on one pitch.”

For Emanuel, he’s hoping his team can bounce back and start getting some timely hits. After 10 straight wins to start the season, the Eskomos are 1-4 over the last five games, including two losses to Proctor and another to Moose Lake-Willow River.

“They all have really nice pitching staffs and we’ve been scuffling a little bit at the plate,” Emanuel said. “We’re getting on base, but we’re not getting that clutch hit when we need to. We’ve been a little snake bitten too...we’re hitting balls right at people and the only thing you can tell the girls is keep doing what you’re doing and eventually they’re going to fall.”

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Superior is next scheduled to host Proctor at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 18. Esko (11-4) is scheduled to play at Barnum at 4 p.m. Friday, May 21.

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Esko’s Miranda Kelley (16) slides safely under the tag of Superior’s Elise Degraef (2) in the first inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior Monday, May 17, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

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Superior’s Elise DeGraef (2) makes a throw to first base in the seventh inning of the Spartans win over Esko at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior Monday, May 17, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

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Superior’s Emma Raye (27) gets tagged out at home plate by Esko’s Amber Carlblom (3) in the third inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior Monday, May 17, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Related Topics: SOFTBALLESKOSUPERIOR
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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