6/6/2019 4:13:00 PM Wildcat girls complete another successful softball season
Chisago Lakes 2, Cloquet 0 Chisago Lakes senior pitcher Trinity Junker came up big in the late stages of the Section 7AAA softball tournament. With the Wildcats facing elimination against the top-seeded Cloquet Lumberjacks, Junker threw a no-hitter, striking out 14, to lead the Wildcats to a 2-0 win and another shot at Cloquet in the true section championship game. The only baserunners Junker allowed were on walks in the first and sixth innings and a hit batter in the sixth inning. Junker had eight strikeouts in the first three innings. The game was played Thursday, May 30 at Chisago Lakes High School, the host site for this year’s Section 7AAA tournament.
The Wildcats got on the board right away in this one. Natalie Thornburg led off the game with a double to right center and later scored on a two-out infield single by Kaitlyn Istvanovich. In the top of the sixth, Alison Bergerson reached on an infield single to the right side with one out. With two outs, Istvanovich hit a ground ball that trickled through the right side of the infield for a single. Paige Berquist drilled a single up the middle to score Bergerson, and the Wildcats led 2-0.
Cloquet’s only serious scoring threat came in the sixth inning. Junker hit Brenna McClarey to lead off the inning. One out later, Diana Jones hit a hard ground ball that appeared to be headed for right center field and the Lumberjacks’ first hit of the game. But second baseman Thornburg made an incredible diving stop to her right, got up and fired to first. First baseman Jessica Bergerson made a nice scoop of the low throw, which just nipped Jones at first. McClarey advanced to second on the play. McClarey went to third on a passed ball. Junker walked Brynn Martin on four pitches. But Junker got Kiana Bender to hit a foul popup to third base to end the Cloquet threat. Junker finished the game off with a flourish, striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh to seal the 2-0 win and send the Wildcats to a winner-take-all section championship game.
Cloquet 3, Chisago Lakes 2 (8 innings) In the section championship game, played later that same afternoon, clutch pitching and great defensive plays kept the game tied at 2-2 as it went into extra innings. But the result was anticlimactic, as well as heartbreaking for the Wildcats. The Wildcats let two fly balls drop between multiple players in the bottom of the eighth and Cloquet scored a run to beat the Wildcats 3-2. This game was also played at Chisago Lakes High School.
In the bottom of the first, Cloquet loaded the bases on a bunt single and two walks. But starting pitcher Trinity Junker struck out the next two batters. Allie Wojtysiak grounded out to end the inning, and the score stayed 0-0. In the top of the second with one out, Alice Johnson hit a fly ball to left field. The left fielder camped under it and dropped it, so Johnson reached first on the error. Jessica Bergerson followed with a swinging bunt to charging third baseman Keagan Anderson. But no one covered first or third, so Anderson had nowhere to throw it and both runners were safe. Desi Spicer followed with an RBI single to center. Savanna Harrington singled to load the bases. Natalie Thornburg hit a grounder to the shortstop, who threw home to force out Jessica Bergerson for the second out. Alison Bergerson struck out, and the Wildcat lead was 1-0. In the bottom of the inning, a pair of one-out singles put runners on first and second. Diana Jones doubled to drive in one run. With runners on second and third, Brynn Martin hit a grounder to short. Alison Bergerson threw home, but baserunner Shelby Piel beat the throw for the second run of the inning. Kiana Bender hit a pop-up to third. The infield fly rule was called, so Bender was out. Third baseman Spicer caught the ball. Jones decided to go from second to third. Spicer reached out and tagged her to complete the double play and keep the Lumberjack lead at 2-1.
Junker came out to pitch the bottom of the third. Olivia Diver greeted Junker with a double to the wall in left center and Anderson sacrificed her to third. Junker struck out the next two batters to end the inning, and her day was finished.
Johnson led off the top of the fourth with an infield single to short. Bergerson singled to right center and Spicer reached on an error to load the bases. Harrington struck out. Thornburg hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Johnson to tie the game at 2-2. Alison Bergerson reached on a bunt single to re-load the bases with two outs. But Junker struck out to end the inning and the score remained tied.
With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth, the Lumberjacks loaded the bases with one out on a single to right center and two bunts. With a 1-2 count on Piel, Mendell threw a beautiful pitch that caught the inside corner. The ump couldn’t pull the trigger for some reason, and the count became 2-2. Piel lined the next pitch right to third baseman Spicer. She caught it and stepped on third before the runner got back to complete the double play and kept the game tied at 2-2.
Istvanovich singled with two outs in the top of the seventh but was stranded there when Paige Berquist struck out to end the inning. Things got wild in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Bender hit a fly ball down the left field line, and it was dropped for an error. Diver singled. Bender went all the way to third and Diver advanced to second when the cutoff was missed. Anderson hit a grounder to third. Bender took off immediately from third as Spicer threw home, and Istvanovich tagged her for the second out. Istvanovich lobbed the ball to Mendell between home and the pitching rubber. The high throw ticked off the top of Mendell’s glove and rolled toward second baseman Thornburg. Diver, who was now on third, saw this and raced for home to try to score the winning run. Thornburg picked up the ball and fired it home. Diver may have been safe if she had slid, but she decided to try to jump over the tag of Istvanovich and Istvanovich tagged her before her foot hit the plate for the third out, sending the game into extra innings.
With one out in the top of the eighth, Jessica Bergerson reached on an error and went to second on a wild pitch. But Spicer and Harrington popped up to end the inning and the score stayed tied. In the bottom of the inning, leadoff hitter Wojtysiak hit a high fly ball to short left center. Three fielders got under the ball and watched as it hit the ground. Lucy Sinkkonen followed with a high popup to right. Wildcat defensive players again misplayed it and the ball dropped for an error. There were now runners on second and third with no outs. McClarey grounded to short. Wojtysiak took off from third and Alison Bergson fired home. Istvanovich applied the tag for the first out. Piel hit a soft grounder back to Mendell. Mendell threw home, but the throw was too late to get Piel as she slid in with the winning run. The Wildcats had come oh-so-close but were denied just short of their first-ever trip to the state tournament.
Junker went three innings and allowed two earned runs on six hits. She walked two and struck out five. Mendell went 4 1/3 innings in relief. She allowed one unearned run on four hits. She didn’t walk anyone and struck out four in taking the loss. Sinkkonen got the win in relief for Cloquet, allowing one unearned run on six hits. She walked none and struck out eight.