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July 16, 2018

5/31/2018 2:38:00 PM
North Branch upset by Cloquet, must battle through loser's bracket

Cloquet 6, North Branch 4
After beating Cloquet earlier this year, the North Branch softball team knew they would see the Lumberjacks again at some point in sections. They were too good not to sqaure up again.

The rematch happened on Tuesday, May 29 in the section finals and it went well early for the Vikings, but unraveled late as Cloquet earned a measure of revenge, sending North Branch to the losers bracket of the Section 7AAA tournament.

The Vikings, who lost only once all season prior, pushed four runs across in the first inning, highlighted by a three run homerun by shortstop Macy Brodin.

Typically, four runs is more than enough in support of ace pitcher Sam Pederson, but Cloquet chipped away at the lead to set up for their big fifth inning.

The ‘Jacks scored one run in the third inning and one run in the fourth inning to cut the lead in half, and then they exploded for four runs in the fifth inning to take a 6-4 lead.

At that point, North Branch’s bats had gone quiet for the first time this year, and they couldn’t mount a comeback. Cloquet added another insurance run in the seventh to win 7-4.

The loss doesn’t end NB’s season, however. It just bumped them down to the losers bracket. They were supposed to play Hermantown immediately after with a chance to comeback and play Cloquet on the line, but a heavy downpour postponed that game a day, after the Press went to deadline.
For North Branch to make it to state still, they’ll have to beat Hermantown on Wednesday, May 30 and then beat Cloquet twice on Thursday, May 31 in Grand Rapids. If they lose at all before that, their season will be over.

For a full recap, check out next week’s Chisago County Press.

North Branch 9, Princeton 1
Earlier in section play, North Branch completed their trifecta sweep of the Princeton Tigers in the first round of sections last week.

After a dominating regular season, the Vikings drew the top seed, and with that a match up against Princeton, who they had beaten by a combined score of 31-4 this year in their two games.

The Vikings scored in six of seven innings and just suffocated the Princeton team with constant pressure.

“The girls came together and played well. Scoring almost every inning makes it pretty difficult on the opposing team to get something going, and helps us play more comfortably in the field and on the mound,” Head Coach Kathy Crudo said. “Princeton came out with a game plan and were a solid team, they took their hacks but our defense played well.”

The offense was led by freshman Sophie Smith. She had four hits, falling just a triple shy of the cycle. She was supported at the plate by Macy Brodin, Heath Kost and Liz Gladitsch, who all drove in runs for the Vikings.

“Sophie Smith has been zoned in for awhile now, and her presence and at bats at the plate have really helped us rally things together,” Crudo said.
Sam Pederson went the distance for North Branch pitching, allowing just one run on three hits and striking out nine Tiger batters.

“It’s always nice to get the first game win under your belt especially at your home field. We have had a lot of support throughout our community this season and it was great for the girls to come out with a win one last time on that field for them.”

North Branch 6, Hermantown 4
The Vikings took down last year’s section champion Hermantown in the second round of sections. It was their second win over the Hawks this season after an earlier 14-7 drubbing.

This one was a bit closer, but that was expected, as Hermantown is a veteran, experienced team with a lot of deep playoff runs to their credit.
North Branch had their patented powerful first inning, pushing four runs across in the opening stanza, which set a great tone for them.

However, Hermantown of course continued to battl and rally throughout the game, and that’s not something North Branch is always used to. “We showed grit and heart the whole game. Amber Yoch stepped up huge to deliver a triple in the first inning and Macy Brodin had a clutch two out hit to drive in two runs early and Heather Kost secured her first ever homerun in the sixth inning to shut the door,” Crudo said. “I’m very proud of our girls. We had numerous leaders stepping up in different games and that's always fun for us, and I'm sure it’s extremely stressful on opponents when they can't take a batter off.”

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