Cloquet, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) --- A police escort on Wednesday sent the Cloquet softball team off to the program's first appearance at the state tournament since 2002.
"We're really excited," senior second baseman Kelly Carlson said. "We want to have fun, but we're also there to win some games and represent Cloquet."
The 'Jacks certainly did that well in the section playoffs, including a quarterfinal win over four–time defending champion Hermantown.
"You had to beat Hermantown," head coach Ron Tondryk said. "They're the perennial favorites the past 10 years or so. When you beat them, people are going to start turning their heads to see what we have here. I think people know we're a good team."
"It was a really intense game," Carlson said. "Our energy was really high, and it was just an amazing feeling to finally beat them."
Now Cloquet is off to state for the first time in a decade, but there are some connections to that '02 squad.
"Our assistant coach, Tiff Anderson, played on that 2002 team," senior third baseman Shania Paulson said, "so it's cool to have her back and kind of share the experience with her."
"I think we just have to be really patient at the plate," senior shortstop Dalyce Gustafson said, "hit the ball well, and Chandler has to keep doing her thing."
That reference is to Chandler Beaupre, the 'Jacks' sophomore pitcher who earned a shutout win in this year's section championship.
"We've got to pitch the ball, we've got to catch the ball, we've got to throw the ball, and we've got to hit the ball," Tondryk said. "It's really basic stuff, and I believe we can do that."