Cloquet VFW captures second in district


July 28, 2023

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Cloquet VFW clawed to a second-place finish in the district tournament this week.

The Cloquet VFW topped off an impressive season by taking second place in the District 8 VFW tournament over the weekend and Monday. Cloquet played six games in three days and went 4-2 in the double elimination tournament.

"It was a major grind, but the boys gave everything they had and they played well," said coach Nate Knutson.

On Saturday Cloquet opened tournament play in impressive fashion with a 2-0 win over West Duluth. The game featured a no-hitter for Cloquet pitcher Bo Harriman.

"Bo was phenomenal," Knutson said. "He struck out six, walked two and our defense played solid behind him. It was an impressive effort."

Cloquet managed just three hits - by Brody Dushkin, Jack Battaglia and Jackson Peterson - against West Duluth, but it was enough to sneak out a win.

Game 2 was also played Saturday. That game saw Cloquet fall 6-3 in eight innings in a tough loss to Grand Rapids. Cloquet had the lead entering the bottom of the seventh, but Rapids scored to tie the game late and then pulled out the win, sending Cloquet into the losers bracket. Aiden Collins pitched well in the loss by going five innings and giving up just one earned run.

On Sunday Cloquet, the No. 6 seed, downed Hermantown in a wild seesaw affair 13-12. Hermantown entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed.

Cloquet trailed 6-0 entering the bottom of the third, but they erupted for seven runs in the bottom half of the inning to gain a 7-6 lead. Hermantown added a run in the top of the fourth to tie the game, but Cloquet tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the fourth to go ahead 11-7. In the sixth inning, Hermantown cut the lead to 11-8, but Cloquet responded once again by scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 13-8.

"Entering the top of the seventh with a 4-run lead didn't feel safe because of how wild the game was," Knutson said.

He was almost right, as Hermantown exploded for four runs to get to within 13-12 before Cloquet was able to shut the door and eliminate Hermantown from the tournament.

Battaglia went 4-for-5, Adam Huls was 3-for-3 and Wyatt Preteau added a pair of hits to lead the Cloquet offense.

"It took a lot of grinding, but the guys stayed with it and found a way to pull out a big win," Knutson said.

The second game on Sunday saw Cloquet beat No. 4 seed Hibbing 4-2 win as Mav Cordle went 6 1/3 innings on the mound, giving up just two earned runs. Grady Knutson smacked out three hits and Hudson Snesrud had two hits in the win.

Monday night Cloquet gained the championship game by eliminating No. 7 seed Grand Rapids 6-2. Luca Gentilini had a strong game on the mound, allowing only two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

"Luca pitched well, as did Mav the game before," Knutson said. "We had Aiden Collins come in late to pick up the save, and that win put us in the championship game."

Snesrud led the hitting attack with three hits while both Battaglia and Dushkin had two hits each, while Grady Knutson had a double and a stolen base in the win.

The win over Grand Rapids pushed Cloquet into the championship, also on Monday, against Rock Ridge. Playing their sixth game in three days proved to be just too much to overcome as Rock Ridge prevailed 12-0 to eliminate Cloquet.

"The way the tournament is set up makes it very, very difficult to have enough pitching if you end up in the losers bracket," Knutson said. "Our kids never quit. We set a goal to go to the state tournament and we fell a little short of that, but the kids played better, they competed hard, they started doing the little things right, and they really took a large jump."

The run to the championship game should bode well for the future of Cloquet baseball.


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