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Prep softball: Cloquet notches statement win over North Branch

The Lumberjacks executed their small ball strategy to perfection in a 7-2 victory over the defending Section 7AAA champion Vikings.

Pitcher throws the ball
Cloquet's Allie Jones delivers a pitch during a Thursday, May 19, 2022 game against North Branch at Braun Park in Cloquet.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — On the eve of section tournament play, the Lumberjacks put the 7AAA field on notice after knocking off defending champion North Branch in a 7-2 final, Thursday, May 19, at Braun Field.

After being on the wrong end of a 10-0 rout at the hands of the Vikings during last year’s tournament, Cloquet head coach Tyler Korby was elated to flip the script this time around.

“(I’m) just so very proud of our girls. That's a big win for us, and I think we opened some eyes in the section with this win today,” Korby said. “We still have some more work to do, but this one feels good.”

The Lumberjacks stayed true to their small ball identity with countless well-placed bunts to advance base runners and even leg out infield singles.

Player throws to first base
North Branch's Erin Pederson tries to throw out Cloquet's Brynn Martin at first base during a Thursday, May 19, 2022 game at Braun Field in Cloquet.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

“That’s the way we play. We have some wicked speed at the top of our order,” Korby said of the team’s small ball strategy. “They can really book it, and we like to put that pressure on teams and get them thinking, and the girls really put that on display today.”

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Sophomore right fielder Carly Johnson said it’s been a point of emphasis all season long in practices.

“We’ve practiced it a lot and (Korby) really emphasizes getting the bunt down,” Johnson said. “We always practice defending the bunt, and since we have a lot of speed, we really try to use it to our advantage.”

The home team struck first in the opening frame via an RBI base hit by Johnson before proceeding to post back-to-back crooked numbers in the third and fourth innings.

The run-scoring marathon in the third began with four consecutive bunts from Dana Jones, Brynn Martin, Roena Diver and Johnson. Diver was successful in her sacrifice bunt attempt, while Jones, Martin and Johnson all reached base on errors and would later score. Blythe Proulx drove in the team’s fourth run with a single to center field.

Players connects for a hit
Cloquet's Blythe Proulx connects for a base hit during a game against North Branch on Thursday, May 19, 2022 at Braun Park in Cloquet.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

The Lumberjacks pushed their final three runs across their next time up thanks to a two-RBI triple from Martin to score Araya Kiminski, who was courtesy running for pitcher Allie Jones, and Dana Jones, who reached base with one of her two singles in the game. A bunt by Roena Diver scored the ‘Jacks’ seventh and final run.

Winning pitcher Allie Jones was sharp in the circle for Cloquet, with four strikeouts and only one walk in seven innings pitched.

“She was a warrior today. We didn’t bend and we didn’t break, and it starts in the circle there with Allie, and she kept us in it,” Korby said. “She kept it around the plate like we talked about and did a nice job with her mental composure, which was spot-on today.”

Jones was aided by exceptional play in the outfield by Martin in left field, Dana Jones in center and Johnson in right field, who used their speed to track down balls that were hit their way.

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Player makes leaping catch
Cloquet's Carly Johnson leaps for a catch in right field during a Thursday, May 19, 2022 game against North Branch at Braun Park in Cloquet.
Jake Przytarski / Cloquet Pine Journal

“In my opinion we have the fastest outfield north of Hinckley, no doubt. I would say it’s one of the fastest outfields in the state,” Korby said. ”... It’s nice to have kids that like to run like gazelles out there and they can really cover ground quickly.”

Cloquet (11-5) will close out its regular season schedule with a road match-up against Grand Rapids, Saturday, May 21, at 11 a.m.

Related Topics: SOFTBALLCLOQUET LUMBERJACKS
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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