The Minnesota Blast softball program in Cloquet is having a season for the ages with two teams winning tournaments in the last week.
The Blast, founded in 2010 by Cloquet native Tyler Korby, has nearly 60 girls ages 12-18 and four teams playing in the fastpitch program. The players are from 15 northern Minnesota communities, including some who live as far away as Bemidji.
The teams are divided by age group: 13U, 15U, 16U and 18U.
Three of the four teams played for titles during the U.S. Specialty Sports Association Northern State Tournament July 5-7 at Braun Park in Cloquet. The 13U team and 16U each won their respective tournaments and the 15U team played in the championship game, finishing second in their division.
Korby, who coaches the 13U and 16U teams, was pleased with the play of all the girls and the grit they’ve shown in tournaments throughout the summer.
“These kids just have a lot of fight in them,” Korby said. “There’s not too many games that we’re not in and it doesn’t matter if we’re behind. They have a lot of grit and a lot of fight and they like to get after it.”
In fact, the 16U team is on a 17-game winning streak, with tournament wins in Fargo, N.D., and Buffalo, Minn., as well as the USSSA win last weekend. The 13U team, with tournament titles in Ashley and Andover, has won 16 of its last 19 games.
Blast teams have played more than 125 games this summer and will likely reach at least 150 games before the season ends. The 16U and 13U teams will play in the North American Fastpitch Association tournaments July 25-28, with the 16U team traveling to Shoreview, Minn., and the 13U team going to Eden Prairie, Minn.
The Blast program is a serious time commitment for the players, with two practices a week and two doubleheaders, as well as weekend tournaments. Korby estimated most players spend 20-30 hours each week playing, practicing and traveling.
“This takes a commitment, to play as much ball as we do,” Korby said. “These kids sacrifice a lot, but they love being here and I love being around them. I’m lucky to be around them every day.”