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Cloquet Legion, VFW teams prep for playoffs

After a busy season for both the Cloquet Legion and VFW baseball teams, playoffs are looming. Legion coach Tyler Olin, also the Cloquet High School boys baseball coach, said they’re as ready as they’re going to be after 13 games so far.

“Summer baseball is a whole different thing than high school,” Olin said. “There are some teams in our area that have age-eligible college guys who are back playing, and we don’t have that. We are just glad guys are out getting reps for next spring for the high school season.”

The Cloquet Legion team was in Ely last weekend and went 1-3 in that tournament. Cloquet beat International Falls and then fell in back-to-back one-run games to Ely and Proctor before losing to Tri-City of Irondale, Minnesota, 9-0.

Cloquet has a number of younger athletes who are playing up at the Legion age level, including a couple of sophomores and an eighth-grader, along with four juniors and a number of seniors.

“We should finally have a full complement of players when we hit the playoffs,” Olin said. “On paper, we should be able to compete with anyone.”

Division 1 District playoffs for the Northeast Legion District were rained out Wednesday. Instead games were set to start Thursday in Hibbing with Cloquet, the No. 7 seed, squaring off against No. 2 Grand Rapids, which beat Cloquet 6-3 last Thursday. Regardless of a win or a loss in the first game, Cloquet would then play a second game later in the day. (Look for results in next week’s Pine Knot.)

Olin believes in prioritizing the high school season and using the summer season to have fun, learn the game, and get better.

“In the summer, you have players who have to work and miss because of other sports, so everyone plays and gets time on the field,” said Olin. “Kids end up playing positions that they normally don’t play in high school, so that helps them learn the game as well.”

VFW confident

The Cloquet VFW team has also been busy. The team currently sits with a 9-6 record and is the No. 6 seed in the upcoming Northeast District Tournament. They will play July 22-25 at Rockridge High School in Virginia.

“We have the depth and the talent where we could make a deep playoff run,” said VFW coach Nate Knutson. “We have seven returning kids from last year and we added some younger kids who are athletic and talented, so we are excited about our chances.”

Cloquet is solid up and down the lineup and the team can go at least four deep with their starting pitching.

“We like the pitching depth we have,” Knutson said. “We also have some guys who can step up and throw strikes, and who can be around the plate.”

Last Thursday, Cloquet swept Grand Rapids in a tune-up for the upcoming district playoffs.

“If we play like we can, we will be fine,” Knutston said of the upcoming playoffs. “Duluth East is one of the top seeds, but I feel we can match up with them, and we have had some tight games with them this season.”

Cloquet’s first district game starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 22, when they face the No. 3 seed West Duluth in Virginia at Rockridge. If Cloquet wins, they would play the winner of East and Grand Rapids at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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