HIBBING — With less than a week to go before the Section 7AAA playoffs, the No. 7 ranked Cloquet High School softball team is getting geared up for the postseason.
The Lumberjacks came to Hibbing Wednesday and took advantage of six hits en route to a 12-2, five-inning, 10-run rule victory over over the Bluejackets at Vic Power Field.
Cloquet is the odds-on favorite to unseat Hermantown as section champions, and the Lumberjacks definitely have the lineup and pitching to do so.
“We’re getting the kids playing time so that’s good,” Cloquet coach Ron Tondryk said. “We want to do what everybody else is trying to do, get good pitching, get timely hitting and play good defense
“We’re not where we want it to be. There’s always room for improvement.”
The Bluejackets, on the other hand, are still in a rebuilding mode, but Hibbing is getting better game in, game out.
The one problem the Bluejackets had was giving Cloquet too many free base runners in the first inning.
Both Dana Jones and Brynn Martin drew walks to start the game off of Hibbing starting pitcher Ayva Terzich, then Kiana Bender doubled home a run. Keagan Anderson drew a walk to load the bases, then two wild pitches made it 3-0.
Brenna McClarey reached on a fielder’s choice, then a single by Josie Steen brought her home for an early 4-0 lead.
“We’re a good-hitting ball club, averaging about eight runs a game,” Tondryk said. “I’m not surprised. We hit a buzzsaw in a couple of games, and didn’t hit. Overall, I’m confident with our hitting, and our pitching. We have three good pitchers.”
With that kind of hitting, pitchers can’t give extra base runners, and that’s what happened in the first inning.
“Ayva struggled right away,” Hibbing coach Bryan Terzich said. “She’s trying to learn some new mechanics. They got some walks, then those four runs. They’re a complete team. They don’t make mistakes.”
Which is exactly what the Bluejackets did, but not until the Lumberjacks added three more runs in the second to make it 7-0.
Lexi Norrgard and Shelby Peil both walked, and they scored on a double by Jones, who would score on a sacrifice fly by Bender.
At that point, Cloquet pitcher Josie Steen had a comfortable lead and a larger margin for error.
“They (our pitchers) can sit back and attack the strike zone,” Tondryk said. “It gets them a little more relaxed, so they’re not playing tight. That’s what we want to see. Just go out and and play the game.”
Hibbing got a first-inning single from Allie Bussey, then in the second, the Bluejackets took advantage of the long ball.
Anna Elias hit a solo home run to lead off the inning, then Jacie Clusiau followed with another solo home run and just like that, it was 7-2.
“You have to hit the ball, and we hit the ball,” Terzich said. “We had those two home runs, and we a couple of other girls smack the ball around. That was good.”
That’s something Tondryk didn’t want to see that, but he liked the way Steen recovered from it and didn’t allow another run through the next three innings.
“She battled back,” Tondryk said. “That’s what we want to see.”
Cloquet would add five more runs in the fourth Jones hit a solo home run, and McClarey and Steen both had RBI base hits. The other two runs scored on an error and a wild pitch.
“When you’re getting ready for the playoffs, we still have to play the game, even with a big lead,” Tondryk said. “You want to play the game for the playoffs. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Bluejackets needed to get one run in the fifth to stay in the game, and Ayva Terzich did her part by hitting a leadoff double. With two out, Megan Bussey was hit by a pitch, but Steen got the next hitter on strikes to end the game.
Ayva Terzich pitched ⅓ of an inning, giving up one hit and three walks. Madison Lampton tossed 4 ⅔ innings of five-hit ball. She struck out two and walked three.
Steen gave up five hits in five innings of work. She struck out two.
Jones and Steen both had two hits.
CHS 430 50 — 12 6 0
HHS 020 00 — 2 5 1
Cloquet: Josie Steen (W) and Brenna McClarey; Hibbing: Ayva Terzich (L), Madison Lampton (1st) and Bella Scaia; 2B — Dana Jones, Terzich; HR — Jones, Anna Elias, Jacie Clusiau.