Prep softball: 'Jacks hand Rebels a rare loss in 8-5 final
Junior Carly Johnson led Cloquet with a 4-4 day at the plate featuring a triple and a trio of base hits.
CLOQUET — A perfect four-hit afternoon by junior Carly Johnson highlighted a stellar display at the plate by Cloquet in its hard-fought 8-5 victory over No. 4 (Class A) ranked Moose Lake-Willow River, Wednesday, May 17, at Braun Park.
The signature win comes just one day after the Lumberjacks’ 10-9 toppling of Proctor, as the team continues to hit its stride on the eve of the postseason.
“I’m on them quite a bit and we have high expectations. These girls continue to answer the bell, and we’re getting a little tougher as the season goes along,” Cloquet head coach Tyler Korby said. “We play in a tough section so we’ve been challenged day in and day out with good pitching and we were ready to hit today.”
Losses have been a rarity for the high-powered Rebels this season as the club entered the contest with a 15-2 record and a five-game winning streak.
Still, despite the loss, head coach Kelly Goeb is confident in her group’s ability to bounce back in preparation for another deep playoff run.
“I don’t think the loss really affects us too much. I think we just have to learn from the mistakes and learn from what we can do better,” Goeb said. “You win some, you lose some, that’s just kind of how it goes. But we just need to learn from it so that we can be better in the next game.”
Starting pitcher Allie Jones set the tone early for Cloquet with a one-two-three opening frame in her first of seven innings in the circle. The sophomore compiled six strikeouts in the winning effort, while surrendering five earned runs on 10 hits.
The momentum generated in the field quickly carried over the plate, as the Lumberjacks jumped out to a 3-0 lead behind an RBI base hit by Blythe Proulx to score leadoff hitter Roena Diver. Lilly Witte drove in the second run after bunting into a fielder’s choice out, before Lexi Goranson hit a grounder to third to drive in the final run of the inning.
After an RBI base hit by Johnson made it 4-0 through two complete, the Rebels responded with their first run scored in the top of the third via a single by Sandra Ribich to push Halle Klavu across after getting aboard with a double to centerfield.
The 4-1 score stood into the fourth inning when MLWR battled back to tie the game with a four-hit, three-run inning that began with a leadoff triple by Jorja Jusczak. A sacrifice squeeze play by Lily Kahara scored Jusczak in the ensuing at-bat before two more runs were pushed across by an RBI base hit by Sarah Christy and a sacrifice fly from Ribich.
“I think we were down a little bit and then we just kind of picked it up,” Goeb said of her team’s response to the early deficit. “A lot of times our batters are a little slow the first time through the order and then the second time through they’re a bit stronger. So I think they still had confidence that we could come through that second time through the order and get some runs, and we did.”
A flyball caught by Proulx ended the rally and left two base runners stranded in a key sequence for the Lumberjacks.
“(MLWR) was getting pretty loud in their dugout and they were getting some momentum going, you could kind of feel it turning a little bit, so I took a couple timeouts there just to remind the girls that, ‘Hey, we gotta get tough here. We gotta stay laser-focused and we gotta make sure that we are just playing for outs, you know?’ We gotta play for outs,” Korby said.
After weathering the storm, Cloquet regained the lead in short order with two more runs scored in the bottom half of the fifth. Johnson began the inning by hitting a triple off Rebels’ pitcher Sarah Christy, who took over for starter Alexis Hoffman in the fourth inning. A base hit by Proulx and a ground out by Jones scored the two runs.
With a two-run lead in hand, the Lumberjacks added a pair of insurance runs in their final plate appearance to help seal the Rebels’ fate.
The Lumberjacks will close out their regular season schedule this week with a game against Section 7AAA rival North Branch on Thursday, followed by a matchup against Esko on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Moose Lake-Willow River will play its season-finale on Friday at 4:30 p.m. against Duluth Denfeld at Wade Stadium.