CLOQUET — Hermantown loaded the bases in the fourth inning of a scoreless high school softball game against Cloquet pitcher Amanda Paul on Friday at Braun Park.

Instead of being fazed, the senior amped up her game.

“I like those situations, they power me up,” Paul said. “It puts me on the edge and I like that. You have to have that confidence. Pitching is a mind game.”

Paul bore down and induced a fly ball to end an inning that included two walks and a hit batter. She later had two hits and two RBIs to lead the Lumberjacks to the 5-1 victory.

Brenna McClarey (19) of Cloquet hits the ball against Hermantown on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Brenna McClarey (19) of Cloquet hits the ball against Hermantown on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

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“It’s not good for my blood pressure, but we believe in her,” first-year Cloquet head coach Tyler Korby said. “Her and (catcher) Brenna (McClarey) are both seniors so we trust those two as the battery for us. They did a really nice job staying around the strike zone and limiting free passes. Those are big situations and you want a pitcher and catcher you can trust.”

Paul allowed six hits, struck out 10 and walked four as the Lumberjacks improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the Lake Superior Conference.

Paul wasn’t around for Cloquet’s first two games. She was busy touring Seattle and the University of Washington, where she plans to study molecular and cellular biology next fall.

Morgan VanReese (20) of Cloquet catches a fly ball against Hermantown on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Morgan VanReese (20) of Cloquet catches a fly ball against Hermantown on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

That means Paul had an even longer time away from the diamond than other players, who had their 2020 spring season canceled due to COVID-19.

“I missed it so much; it’s my second home,” she said. “I love being with my second family.”

Cloquet lost 14-13 to Esko in its opener and then survived a 16-10 shootout against Duluth East. With Paul back on the mound, the Lumberjacks expect to have more games such as Thursday’s 3-2 win over Grand Rapids and Friday’s hard-fought win.

“Amanda is a workhorse; we’re glad to have her back,” Korby said.

After getting out of the top of the fourth, Cloquet scored twice in the bottom half of the inning. Roena Diver walked, stole second base and scored on Paul’s single. Courtesy runner Ashley Austin then scored on Jordyn Sorenson’s groundout for a 2-0 lead.

Morgan VanReese (20) of Cloquet catches a fly ball against Hermantown on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Morgan VanReese (20) of Cloquet catches a fly ball against Hermantown on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

The Hawks scored their only run in the fifth as Avery Farrell tripled and came home on Camille Wikstrom’s sacrifice fly.

The Lumberjacks tacked on three runs in the bottom of the inning with Paul again contributing an RBI single to secure the victory.

“We had some quality at-bats, but we need to get those timely hits and be aggressive,” Hermantown coach Michelle Sweeney said of the bases-loaded situation. “I felt we were taking defensive cuts because we were behind in the count rather than ahead in the count.”

That’s due to Paul keeping the Hawks (2-1, 1-1) off balance.

“She did a great job. She was around the plate, and I think we’re going to learn from this,” Sweeney said. “More than likely we’ll see them again.”

Brynn Martin (15) of Cloquet bunts the ball against Hermantown on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
Brynn Martin (15) of Cloquet bunts the ball against Hermantown on Friday, April 23, 2021, at Braun Park in Cloquet. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

That could happen in the Section 7AAA tournament, which Cloquet won in 2019.

Paul believes her team can defend its title.

“We have such a good team atmosphere and support each other,” she said. “We have a good ‘D’ and a good offense and I’m really confident in my team.”

Cloquet 5, Hermantown 1

WP: Amanda Paul 7IP, 1R, 6H, 10K, 4BB. LP: Natalie Vitek 6IP, 5R, 7H, 7K, 5BB. C: Dana Jones 2x3, R; Brynn Martin 2x4; Justin Paro RBI; Paul 2x3, 2RBIs, R. H: Avery Farrell 3x4 (3B), R; Josie Anderson 2B; Camille Wikstrom RBI.