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Prep softball: Consistency key to Cloquet win over Denfeld

Five Lumberjacks had two hits in their first game at Braun Park in 2022.

Superior head coach Mike Sather gets a close up look as Paige Johnson (10) slides into third under the tag of Cloquet’s Justice Paro (21)
Cloquet's Justice Paro tries to make a tag during an April 11 game at Superior. Paro had a triple and an RBI in a 9-4 win over Duluth Denfeld Tuesday.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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Cloquet’s Justice Paro had a triple and an RBI single to lead her team to a 9-4 win over Duluth Denfeld Tuesday in the Lumberjacks’ home opener at Braun Park.

Cloquet found itself down early after Cailyn Volkenant scored on a wild pitch, but the Lumberjacks responded with two in the bottom of the first inning.

Carly Johnson’s triple drove in Roena Diver, and Sophie Diver drove Johnson in on the next play.

Volkenant scored again on a wild pitch from freshman Allie Jones in the top of the third, but Cloquet responded with seven straight runs over the next three innings to put Denfeld in a 9-1 hole headed to the sixth inning.

Cloquet’s Allie Jones (8) delivers a pitch in the fourth inning
Cloquet’s Allie Jones (8) delivers a pitch in the fourth inning of the game at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday afternoon, April 11, 2022.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

“I told the girls you’ve got to score one to win anyway, so the girls had that mentality to bounce back,” Cloquet coach Tyler Korby said. “That resiliency was shown right in the bottom of the first inning when we were able to put two across the board. The way we play is to get runners in scoring position and look for some timely hitting and I’m pretty creative in trying to find ways to get kids in from 60 feet away.”

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Cloquet had five players with two hits in the game including Dana Jones, Brynn Martin, Johnson, and Paro. The consistency up and down the lineup is one of the strengths of Cloquet this season along with their aggressive and creative baserunning.

Cloquet’s Dana Jones (4) tries to run down a fly ball in the first inning
Cloquet’s Dana Jones (4) tries to run down a fly ball in the first inning of the game at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday afternoon, April 11, 2022.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram

“We have a lineup of righties and lefties as well as quick and powerful kids, so we can be quite creative,” Korby said. “There’s no weak spot in our order — they’re just a good, tough, scrappy team. They keep battling and there’s just no weak spot.”

The consistent hitting has also been a big part of keeping the Lumberjacks’ energy going in the dugout.

“Everyone really did their part today,” Sophie Diver said. “I think we scored at least one or two runs an inning and I think that’s really been an improvement from last year. We’re going better keeping the energy going and having good at bats.”

Korby was impressed with the play of third baseman Paro and second baseman Sophie Diver in the infield.

“Those two defended the bunt great today,” Korby said. “That was huge for them to be able to take bunt away, it’s one of the things we preach. For Justice to attack the ball and Sophie to dig a few out over there with and hang in there with some runners barreling down pretty hard…It was just nice to see what they did both offensively and defensively.”

Bunt coverage is a part of every Cloquet practice and is a real point of emphasis, according to Paro.

“We do bunt practice and bunt coverages all the time, at practice and before games,” Paro said. “It’s one of my favorite things to work on because there’s lots of different ways to go about it.”

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Cloquet (4-1) opened its home season Tuesday, but the Lumberjacks still haven’t practiced outside. That will change Wednesday, but seven weeks of practice in the gym was not easy, but the girls have kept “plugging away” and have put their 16-1 season-opening loss to Superior behind them.

“Just being in the gym itself is tough, but you’ve got to build some resiliency and character and they’ve done a nice job,” Korby said. “I’ve been really impressed with these last four games since that first one against Superior and the way they’re able to bounce back. It’s what a coach looks for, a team that’s willing to buy into your system and your program and these girls are doing that.”

Cloquet is scheduled to play Hermantown at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5.

More from Jamey Malcomb
The Rebels held an early lead, but Nicollet scored a run in the top of the eighth inning to win the state championship.

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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