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Cleared to play, 'Jacks blank Milaca

For two weeks prior to their home opener against Milaca, the Cloquet girls softball team did double duty to prepare for the game. The Lumberjacks not only spent time in the gym practicing, but they also headed to Braun Park with shovels and spent many hours removing heavy wet snow from the playing field.

"It was a pretty remarkable and unthinkable task to get the fields ready," said Cloquet head coach Tyler Korby. "On Tuesday afternoon I would have given us a 5 percent chance to be playing our Friday home game, but we kept chipping away and within a couple of days got the field ready."

Not only did the Lumberjack players take to the field with shovels, but local businesses brought in heavy equipment and helped to clear a field that was two weeks behind the normal snow melt due to one of the snowiest winters on record.

All that work paid off as the 'Jacks opened the season at home with an impressive 12-0 win over the Wolves.

"It was a special night to be on the dirt," Korby said. "All 29 of our players got into the games between varsity and junior varsity."

Led by the pitching of Allie Jones and an impressive first-inning offensive outburst, the Lumberjacks won easily.

"Allie looked good and continues to work on some things to get better," Korby said. "She did a good job of hitting her spots, working the corners and changing speeds. She limited the free passes and let her defense work behind her."

In four innings of work Jones gave up two hits while striking out seven in picking up the win and the shutout.

Cloquet opened the game by scoring eight runs in the first inning and then tacked on three more in the third and a single tally in the fourth. The game ended in five innings due to the mercy rule.

"We preach to the girls that we want to start strong and we did just that," Korby said. "Carly (Johnson) led off the game with a triple and scored on a bunt base hit by Roena (Diver) and after that it just got rolling."

The Lumberjacks went through the entire lineup before the Wolves were able to record an out. The big hit was a two-run home run by Blythe Proulx.

"That ball was no higher than 12 feet off the ground and got out of the park in a hurry," Korby said. "We like to keep our swings short and move runners around and we aren't looking for the home run, but if it comes we will take it."

Offensively, the Lumberjacks were led by Blythe Proulx - with her two-run homer - and her twin sister, Brooke, who tripled. Carly Johnson also tripled. Roena Diver added two hits to score a pair of runs.

Cloquet blasted out eight hits in just four trips through the batting order in the five-inning game.

"I was impressed with the game because it was a well-rounded effort and it was a pretty clean game for us considering it was the first time on dirt," Korby said. "We also learned that we have some pretty good depth because it didn't seem like we missed a beat when we played the non-starters."

Due to bad weather moving in at the end of the week, the Cloquet coach said the team probably wouldn't see the field again until sometime next week when they have three games scheduled.

"We are still working hard," Korby said. "I am very pleased with how hard the girls are working each day and how they are buying into the challenge of the upcoming season."