NORTH MANKATO, Minn. — According to a baseball probability chart, teams with the bases loaded and no outs have an 85 percent chance of scoring at least one run.
So when the Cloquet softball team filled the bases in the fifth inning of a tied Class AAA state tournament semifinal Thursday night against top-seeded Mankato West, the Lumberjacks had to feel good about their position.
So much for odds.
Cloquet failed to score that inning and gave up 10 runs over the final two innings of a 12-2 loss to the Scarlets at Caswell Park.
The Lumberjacks (20-5) head to the third-place game at 11 a.m. Friday against Becker (20-6). Mankato West (25-1) will play for the title vs. Northfield.
“That was a turning point that we didn’t get some runs there and get a lead,” Cloquet coach Ron Tondryk said of the fifth inning, when the score was 2-2 and the Lumberjacks were threatening.
After loading the bases on two singles and a walk, Allie Wojtysiak’s grounder forced teammate Kiana Bender at home and Amanda Paul popped up. Reliever Lauryn Douglas struck out the final batter to keep the game tied.
“That was huge, the turning point of this game,” Scarlets coach Don Krusemark said. “We have been in that position a couple of other times this season and we’ve had good success with it.”
Madi Mueller, who had homered in the third inning to tie the game, bunt-singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth and scored the winning run on an error.
Mankato West then loaded the bases plenty of times in a nine-run sixth, and this time the probability held true.
“We got some clutch hits in that last inning,” Krusemark said. “When we get rolling, it seems like everyone feeds off each other.”
Bri Stoltzman cleared the bases by herself with a double.
“That’s why they are No. 1, they were hitting the ball for home runs and doubles,” Tondryk said. “We told our girls that we had to keep battling but we kind of ran out of gas.”
In the quarterfinals, Cloquet didn’t look like the same team that was no-hit a week ago in the Section 7AAA playoffs.
As third baseman Keagan Anderson said after the Lumberjacks’ 10-0, five-inning win over Benilde-St. Margaret’s, “Hitting is contagious.”
If so, the Lumberjacks were one sick team in their first state softball tournament appearance since 2012.
Brynn Martin was 4-for-4 and scored three runs, Anderson had a pair of two-run singles and Dana Jones was 3-for-4 and scored three times for Cloquet.
A week ago, Chisago Lakes pitcher Trinity Junker no-hit Cloquet in the first of two Section 7AAA championship games before the Lumberjacks won 3-2 in eight innings in the return game to secure the school’s third all-time state berth and first since 2012.
Leadoff batter Dana Jones didn’t wait long to get Cloquet’s first hit, putting down a successful bunt in the bottom of the first.
“I told Dana if the third baseman is playing back to just get (the bunt) down,” Tondryk said. “She laid it down perfectly, and she’s probably the fastest kid around here.”
Martin and Bender followed by getting on base and Anderson delivered her first two-run single to key a three-run inning.
Bender, whose mother, Brenda, coached Cloquet to its first state tournament in 2002 (oddly enough with Tondryk’s daughter, Brooke, as the star pitcher), was 2-for-4 and scored two runs.
“Playing the short game is always key because we can get them on base — the first three batters are fast,” Kiana Bender said.
Anderson again keyed the second inning by bringing home two more runs with a single as the Lumberjacks quickly forgot about any hitting problems a week earlier.
Pitcher Lucy Sinkkonen did the rest, shutting down the Red Knights (16-9) on four hits with nine strikeouts.
Esko loses quarterfinal
Sadie Erickson took her sweet time to give the Norwood-Young America fans what they came to see.
Erickson waited until the final pitch of the game to swat a ball over the fence — the 20th time she has done so this season — to give the Raiders a 14-1, six-inning victory over Esko in a Class AA quarterfinal.
The unseeded Eskomos (18-7) played Le Sueur-Henderson in a consolation game later in the evening.
Norwood-Young America was in control by the time Erickson, who entered the tournament with a .641 batting average and 50 RBIs, crushed a grand slam over the center-field fence off reliever Kristy DeMuth.
“She can really swing it and has been having an outstanding year for us,” Raiders coach Joe Kley said. “We knew eventually she’d get a pitch to hit, and luckily she was able to capitalize on it.”
According to the Minnesota State High School League somewhat unofficial records, Erickson’s 20 homers are four more than anyone else has ever hit in a single season.
“They had a slower pitcher (starting) and I tend to struggle more with slower pitchers,” Erickson said. “I like to see the heat.”
Erickson was 2-for-5 with three runs scored and four RBIs, all from the leadoff spot. Kley moved her from the No. 3 spot in the order to the top of the order during the section playoffs.
“It gives me more opportunities to get on base,” she said. “And I have a slapper before me and a slapper right after me to throw the defense off.”
The game was scoreless until the third inning when the Raiders scored three runs with one out. The same three batters at the top of the order scored the next inning as well — all with two outs — to make it 6-0.
“We controlled them the first couple innings and then they had a couple clutch hits,” Esko coach Jeff Emanuel said. “Then they got a little more confidence.
“My goal was to shock-and-awe them early on but we didn’t come up with clutch hits for ourselves.”
Designated player Zoie Johnson accounted for the Eskomos’ lone run with a fifth-inning homer to center field.
South Ridge falls twice
South Ridge scored in the first inning of its Class A quarterfinal against top-seeded New York Mills, but then didn’t score the rest of the day.
The Panthers (18-7) lost 6-1 to New York Mills and then were no-hit 11-0 in five innings by Waterville-Elysian-Morristown pitcher Trista Hering in a consolation game.
Alana Young singled to open the first game and scored on a Celia Olesiak single.
But that was the highlight for the Panthers, who were appearing in their first girls state tournament in any sport.
The Eagles scored in the bottom of the first when Tiffany Thompson came home on Sierra Gerber’s sacrifice fly and tacked on two more runs in the second on a wild pitch and a catcher’s throwing error.
“We made a couple catching mistakes, it’s a little frustrating to me,” Panthers coach Roger Plachta said. “You can’t give a team three runs and expect to win. I wasn’t really happy with the way they played.”
New York Mills tacked on three runs in the sixth on an Annika Frost RBI single and a two-run hit by Grace Christenson.
South Ridge’s hitting woes were more pronounced in the nightcap as Hering retired all 15 batters she faced for only the fourth perfect game in tournament history.