2022 Pine Journal All-Area Softball Player of the Year: Jones closes out record-setting career with 'Jacks
Recent Cloquet High School graduate Dana Jones is the first-ever Cloquet Pine Journal All-Area Softball Player of the Year.
CLOQUET — Like a subtle game of cat and mouse, the tense standoff along the 60-foot base path between the battery and would-be base stealers is won, more often than not, by the runner.
In the case of Cloquet speedster Dana Jones, it borders on a sure thing.
The soon-to-be Winona State University Warrior nabbed over 80 bases in her four-year career while being thrown out only once. Jones likely would have eclipsed the century mark had her sophomore season not been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, her over 80 stolen bases ranks among the all-time best in Minnesota State High School League history.
“There’s not many as fast as Dana Jones. She’s the quickest kid I’ve seen outside the metro area. She can really fly,” Cloquet coach Tyler Korby said. “(She’s) probably one of the fastest kids in the state of Minnesota. To be able to have a kid like that at the top of the order, you can really help change the game a little bit, so without a doubt her speed is her natural gift.”
The all-state center fielder closed out her illustrious career with a senior season to remember, leading the Lumberjacks in numerous statistical categories, including batting average (.455), hits (36), extra-base hits (12), steals (19) and on-base plus slugging (1.21), while exhibiting strong leadership qualities as one of the team’s three captains. For her efforts, Jones was named the inaugural Cloquet Pine Journal Player of the Year.
The recognition came as a bit of a surprise for Jones, who learned of the award this past week.
“I was very shocked and happy, and very honored as well. It means a lot to me,” Jones said.
'It's been a ride'
Since taking the field as a starter in eighth grade, Jones has been an integral part of the Lumberjacks’ success in her four years with the program, which included a postseason run as a freshman that stands above all in the eyes of Jones as she reflects on her career.
Cloquet captured the Section 7AAA title in 2019 with wins over Hibbing, North Branch and Chisago Lakes Area before advancing to the state tournament at Caswell Park in Mankato where Jones turned in a record-setting performance of 10 hits over three tournament games.
The feat has only been matched twice in history with Jean Forga of Tartan (1977) and Hannah Mihalik of Hermantown (2016) joining Jones in the MSHSL state tournament record books.
“That in itself just shows what kind of a player she is. She certainly has left her imprint on Lumberjack softball and won’t be forgotten,” Korby said. “And a lot of little kids want to be the next Dana Jones. She’s done a lot of things to leave her imprint here, and we’re going to miss her dearly.”
For Jones, the individual achievement was far out-weighed by the team’s third-place finish and memories created along the way.
“There’s been a lot of great moments throughout my career. I’d definitely say the Mankato trip (was my favorite) and just spending it with my teammates and sharing those memories with those teammates is something that I’ll never forget. It was amazing,” Jones said.
As her career progressed, Jones has transitioned from being one of the youngest players on the team to being called upon as a leader the past two seasons, a role she has taken in stride.
“(She) did a really nice job her senior year being a good leader for us (as) was one of three captains. She is very boisterous, very loud cheering on her teammates,” Korby said. “She can be heard from center field from quite a ways away, so she really impressed me this senior year with her leadership capability.”
Jones said she thoroughly enjoyed sharing her passion for softball with the team’s younger players and providing a boost when they needed it.
“I was able to be that person for those younger people when they needed someone to pick them up, and that meant a lot to me, too,” Jones said. “Obviously the passion I have for softball is very large, and for me to be able to share that with other people, it was fun, and I’m very thankful and grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had at Cloquet.”
A softball family
It would be far from a stretch to suggest that love for the sport of softball runs deep in the Jones family.
Dana’s mom, Angela (Macioce) Jones, is an assistant coach for Cloquet who starred at the University of Minnesota Duluth as a power-hitting first baseman from 1995-1998. During her senior season, she garnered Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Player of the Year honors after setting numerous single-season records, and was inducted into the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.
The wisdom gained from her experience of playing at the next level has proven invaluable for Dana, as she prepares for her own journey in the NSIC Conference playing for Winona State University next year.
“Her being able to guide me in the right direction has meant the world to me, and my dad, too. I wouldn’t be where I am without them (with) all of the money and time that they’ve spent on me. It has meant a lot,” Jones said.
She also thanked her grandparents for their support in making it to every game that they can. The Jones’ cheering section had plenty to celebrate this past season, with both Dana and her sister Allie Jones both playing key roles for the ‘Jacks in 2022.
Being able to close out her career playing alongside her sister is something Dana said she won’t ever forget.
“It’s been pretty cool honestly. Not many people can say that. It’s kind of difficult sometimes because we don’t see eye-to-eye, but honestly, in the end of things, it’s great, and I’m very happy for her,” Dana said “She did amazing this year. So sharing that excitement with her after games is something that I’ll remember forever.”