NORTH MANKATO, Minn. — Cloquet didn’t look like the same team that was no-hit a week ago.
As third baseman Keagan Anderson said after the Lumberjacks’ 10-0, five-inning win over Benilde-St. Margaret’s in a Class AAA quarterfinal Thursday at Caswell Park: “Hitting is contagious.”
If so, the Lumberjacks were one sick team in their first state softball tournament appearance since 2012.
Brynn Martin was 4-for-4 and scored three runs, Anderson had two two-run singles and Dana Jones was 3-for-4 and scored three times as Cloquet (20-4) advanced to a 5 p.m. semifinal against top-seeded Mankato West.
A week ago, Chisago Lakes pitcher Trinity Junker no-hit Cloquet in the first of two Section 7A championship games before the Lumberjacks won 3-2 in eight innings in the return game to secure the school’s third all-time state berth.
But leadoff batter Dana Jones didn’t wait long to get Cloquet’s first hit, putting down a successful bunt in the bottom of the first.
“I told Dana if the third baseman is playing back to just get (the bunt) down,” Cloquet coach Ron Tondryk said. “She laid it down perfectly, and she’s probably the fastest kid around here.”
Martin and Kiana Bender followed by getting on base and Anderson delivered her first two-run single to key a three-run inning.
Bender, whose mother, Brenda, coached Cloquet to its first state tournament in 2002 (oddly enough with Tondryk’s daughter, Brooke, as the star pitcher), was 2-for-4 and scored two runs.
“Playing the short game is always key because we can get them on base — the first three batters are fast,” Kiana Bender said.
Anderson again keyed the second inning by bringing home two more runs with a single as the Lumberjacks quickly forgot about any hitting problems a week earlier.
“We got a couple practices in before we came down here,” Anderson said. “The coaches were having me concentrate on driving the ball up the middle, not doing anything special.”
Pitcher Lucy Sinkkonen did the rest, shutting down the Red Knights (16-9) on four hits with nine strikeouts.