Raptors win conference crown
May 26, 2023
Entering play last week, the Carlton/Wrenshall Raptors had their sights set on three big games against Cromwell-Wright, South Ridge and Silver Bay. If the Raptors were able to win those three games they would finish as the small-school Polar League Conference champions.
Mission accomplished, as the Raptors rode strong pitching from Abby Mitchell and the heroics of a seventh-grader to sweep their rivals and claim the conference crown.
"We made some defensive substitutions aligning ourselves for playoffs, and we just went to work, business as usual," said Raptors coach Brent Pokornowski. "Nothing was hyped up about it, just play the game with passion and fun."
The busy week opened with the Raptors on the road at Cromwell-Wright on May 17. Abby Mitchell threw a no-hitter, and the Raptors pounded out 13 hits, on their way to a 5-1 win over
the Cardinals. Eliza DeCaigny led the hit parade with three hits while Mitchell, Kennedy Siiter and Eva Fisher all contributed two hits to the winning cause.
On Thursday, the Raptors hosted South Ridge and Mitchell held the strong Panthers offense to just one run as Carlton/Wrenshall came away with an impressive 10-1 victory. Mitchell pitched a three-hitter, gave up one run and was backed by another strong offensive effort as her team bashed out 16 hits in the win.
Carlton/Wrenshall wrapped up the week by hosting Silver Bay. Seventh-grader Jaylah Crane's RBI hit in extra innings won it for the Raptors, 5-4.
The Mariners were the defending 2022 small-school conference champions and owned impressive wins over Cromwell, Mountain Iron-Buhl, Floodwood, North Woods, Mesabi East, Two Harbors, South Ridge and Cook County.
The Raptors managed to score four runs in the third inning and eventually held a 4-1 lead until the last inning, when the Mariners plated three runs tying the game, which sent the game into extra innings. Neither team scored in the eighth inning and Mariners were unable to score in the top of the ninth inning, leaving the Raptors a chance entering the bottom of the ninth.
After getting the first two outs, the Mariners found themselves in trouble when DeCaigny got a base hit to left field. DeCaigny's hit was followed by a walk to Mitchell, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Kaydence Moench came in as a courtesy runner for Mitchell and that was followed by a base hit by Siiter which loaded the bases. That left seventh-grader Crane as the batter with a chance to provide the Raptors a walk-off win.
Crane laced a hit to left field on the first pitch she saw, plating DeCaigny and giving the Raptors the small-school conference title.
"After crossing home plate Eliza (DeCaigny) was so pumped she couldn't stop clapping and the bench cleared with everyone mobbing Jaylah somewhere between the pitcher's mound and second base," said Pokornowski. "That passion is what you coach for, it was awesome."
Following the win against Silver Bay, the Raptors also picked up wins over MIB and Floodwood, which improved their record to 14-5 on the season.