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Cloquet storms back after opening tourney loss

Another rainy weekend in the area greeted the nine teams participating in the Cloquet VFW/Junior Legion baseball tournament at Ed Mettner Field in Cloquet last week. Despite the rain the tournament wrapped up late on Sunday with Chetek, Wisconsin laying claim as tournament champs.

“The weather affected a lot of things, but our grounds crew was incredible and they worked their tails off,” said tournament director Nate Knutson.

Noah and Grady Knutson, Lexi Goranson, Mackensi Lynch and Kade Kolodge were perhaps the stars of the tournament as the young grounds crew kept the field playable despite large amounts of rain.

“The grounds did great, but so did the umpires and the teams who all had to deal with the weather,” Knutson said. “This is the second year of the tournament. We went from seven to nine teams, so we are slowly building a solid foundation for the tournament.”

Among the nine teams were Cloquet, Esko, Andover, Superior, Proctor, Rock Ridge, Barnum/Moose Lake/Willow River, Chetek and Aitkin.

Knutson started the tournament last year in an effort to bring a baseball tournament back to the Wood City after years of no tournament for the VFW/Jr. Legion age brackets.

“It is always great to play at home and have the support of the community and family,” said Luca Gentilini, a player on the Cloquet VFW squad. “Even with the weather I thought the tournament went really well. All teams had to deal with the same conditions and our team did a good job of playing through the rain.”

The young Cloquet team hung tight in their first game with Superior through the first few innings before the game got away from them in a 13-2 final. Following that game, Cloquet won back-to-back games by beating Barnum/Moose Lake/Willow River 8-6 and Proctor 4-2.

“It always feels like an advantage when you’re able to just sleep in your own bed and competing on the field you’ve gotten very familiar with over the last few years,” said Adam Huls, another Cloquet player. “It’s always nice to have the locals come watch. Some fans aren’t there to watch one of their kids, they just simply are people who enjoy supporting the community and watching baseball.”

In the win over Barnum/Moose Lake/Willow River Saturday, Cloquet rolled to an early lead. Owen Huls started on the mound for Cloquet while both Aiden Reuvers andmGentilini pitched in relief to help pick up the win.

“After losing against Superior in the first game, the boys came back on Saturday with a good attitude and we got some solid pitching and managed to knock out a close win,” said Sean Huls, who was acting as coach while Tyler Olin was out of town. “We are a pretty young team with mainly eighth- and ninth-graders and just a few sophomores on the team.”

The win over the enighbors to the south put the Cloquet VFW in the sixth-place game against Proctor. the coach said the team played one of their best games of the season.

“Aiden Collins was dominant on the mound and pitched really well for us,” Huls said.

Collins fanned 11 Proctor batters and allowed only four hits and two runs in five innings of work.

Cloquet got a pair of runs in the bottom of the first on a single by Mason Robbins and a sacrifice fly by Mavryk Cordle. Proctor tied the game in the top of the third, but Cloquet took the lead for good on a run-scoring double by Adam Huls, making it 3-2. Huls went 3-for-3 in the game while Gentilini added a pair of hits and also tossed a couple of shutout innings in relief for Cloquet.

Defensively Cloquet also was flawless by not committing an error in the game. They were led on that side of the ball by Reuvers, who had 12 chances in the field without an error.

Chetek won the title with a 6-3 win over Superior.

“We are hoping to keep building this tournament, which we feel is good for Cloquet,” said Knutson, who was also working the concession stand part of the weekend. “We really want people to come out and look at all the great changes at the field … and see just how nice it is.”

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