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Stellar pitching ends 'Jacks season

Rock Ridge, Hibbing push Cloquet out of Section 7AAA

After opening the Section 7AAA softball playoffs last Wednesday with a win, the Lumberjacks faced stiff competition Thursday and fell in back-to-back losses at home in the double elimination portion of the


Cloquet, the No. 4 seed, opened at home with No. 5 seed Grand Rapids and parlayed a seven-run fourth inning into a 7-4 come-from-behind victory.

"We broke things open in the fourth, which was kickstarted with a double by Brooke Proulx," said Cloquet coach Tyler Korby. "Being down 4-0 early in the game, the girls showed a lot of resilience and never backed down. All this season they just keep grinding."

Proulx's twin sister, Blythe, also doubled, as did Rylie Goranson and Allie Jones. Goranson went 2-for-3 and Jones was 2-for-4, while Morgan Olesiak, Ella Maslowski and Aydann Pollard all had singles in the win.

Jones, who has pitched the bulk of the innings for Cloquet this season, went the distance while giving up just nine hits and fanning five Thunderhawk batters.

The win on Wednesday sent the 'Jacks into double-elimination play Thursday at home against top-seeded Rock Ridge.

"It was a classic pitchers' duel between our pitcher, Jones, and their pitchers," Korby said. "It was a super-clean game by both teams with no errors."

In the end, the Wolverines scored single runs in both the third and fifth innings to take a 2-0 win. The Lumberjacks managed just five hits in the loss while striking out 11 times in the loss. Jones struck out eight Rock Ridge batters and gave up seven hits. The Lumberjacks stranded seven base runners in the game.

The loss dropped Cloquet into an elimination game against Hibbing and star pitcher Aune Boben, who kept the Cloquet bats were quiet in a 4-1 loss. The Lumberjacks struck out 13 times.

"Our girls know Boben well because many of them have played with her in the summer," Korby said. "She is a beast, and we have much respect for her."

Boben got her team on the board in the opening inning with a home run. In the third inning, she smashed out a double to start a three-run rally, giving the Bluejackets a 4-0 lead. The Lumberjacks responded with a run by Carly Johnson in the top of the fourth inning against the third-seeded Bluejackets, but that would be the only run Cloquet could plate in the loss.

"We played good defense and got good pitching, but we just didn't have the sticks going at all," Korby said. "The parity in our section this year was unbelievable and nearly every team could have won the section. We played a great schedule this year and beat Chisago Lakes, North Branch and Hermantown, among others. In all, we played a dozen state-ranked teams. It is a grueling section to get out of."

That became clear last week when No. 2 Chisago Lakes was bounced from the tournament by No. 5 Grand Rapids and No. 6 North Branch in back-to-back games.

The Lumberjacks finished 13-10 and will lose four seniors to graduation. Twins Brooke and Blythe Proulx, and Carly Johnson and Aydann Pollard all graduated on Friday.

"They were all fantastic leaders who adored the game," Korby said. "They have a special place in my heart. They put in a lot of time and were extremely dedicated to the team, and for that we are grateful."

Rock Ridge and North Branch Area played Wednesday in the championship bracket and Grand Rapids played Hibbing, the winner hoping to force a championship game Thursday at Wheeler Field in Duluth.

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