Legion teams fall


July 28, 2023

After opening the Division II Northeast Substate baseball tournament with a loss to Proctor, the Esko Legion team bounced back with wins over Milaca and International Falls before bowing out of the tournament with a tough loss to Taconite on Friday of last week.

In their 6-0 win over Milaca on Tuesday, July 18, Esko rode the strong pitching of Cale Haugen, who had led the Esko High School team to the Class AA state championship earlier this summer. Haugen was his steady self and Esko won handily.

“It was a close game early and then we got things rolling late in the game,” said coach Nick Legarde. “I think their pitcher got a little tired and we finally got to him.”

Esko followed a similar scenario in their 8-1 Friday morning win over International Falls which eliminated the I-Falls from the tournament.

“The game was much like the first game where it was tight early and then we blew it open later in the game,” said Legarde.

But Friday afternoon saw Esko fell in a tough way to Taconite. Esko led 2-0 entering the bottom of the seventh when Taconite rallied for three runs with two outs to slip away with a 3-2 lead.

“Taconite caught a break early in the tournament when they got a forfeit win, so they were able to save some arms,” said Legarde. “Connor Pearce threw well for us on the mound.”

Esko played just one or two Legion age players with the rest of the team being made up of Junior Legion players. They had one of the youngest teams in the tournament.

“The Jr. Legion players played a ton of games this summer between Legion and Jr. Legion ball,” said Legarde. “AJ Kazel, for most of the games, was our lone Senior Legion age player. He has been with us for a long, long time and he’ll be missed.”

“The younger guys played well for us,” Legarde said. “I think they have a very bright future ahead of them and for Esko baseball.”

Cloquet comes close

The Cloquet American Legion baseball team ended its season Thursday with a pair of losses in the Division I Northeast Substate tournament in Hibbing.

“We lost a back-and-forth, tough, one-run extra-inning game to Grand Rapids in the opening game 14-13,” said Cloquet Legion coach Tyler Olin. “Between high school and Legion we played them five times this year and lost four of them by one run.”

Despite giving up 14 runs Olin — who is also the high school coach — felt his pitchers did a good job of not walking a lot of batters.

“We walked four in an eight-inning game,” said Olin. “We were down early and then came back and it kind of continued that way most of the game.”

After staking themselves to a 13-11 lead by scoring two runs in the top of the eighth inning, Cloquet was unable to hang on as Rapids parlayed a walk and three doubles into a three-run inning to take the win.

Noah Nelson and Thomas Schlenvogt each bashed out a pair of hits and added a pair of RBIs. Alex Omenge and Jackson Peterson also added a pair of RBIs for Cloquet.

Cloquet’s first game against Grand Rapids was played at 11 a.m. and then they had to wait until nearly 7:30 p.m. to play their next game, which turned out to be a 10-5 loss to Thunder Bay.

“They had a pitcher that did a really good job of mixing speeds and they played a clean defensive game,” Olin said. “They made a lot of nice plays, especially when we were putting the pressure on.”

Kollin Bonneville had a pair of RBIs to lead Cloquet.

“I am very hopeful,” Olin said. “We are looking at getting more depth in pitching and we have the potential to play better defense. We do need to eliminate some strikeouts, but the guys played a lot of ball this summer and that’s what summer ball is all about.”


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