Superior senior Tucker Johnson got the call to the pitcher’s mound in about the worst situation possible in the Spartans’ 6-2 home win over Cloquet on Monday, May 24.

With the Spartans clinging to a one-run lead in the third inning, starter George Hansen walked the first two batters he faced. After each stole a base, Cloquet had two runners in scoring position with no one out when Superior coach Don Dembroski made the change to Johnson.

Johnson struck out Cloquet’s Marshall Hayes and Alec Turnbull, and then got Mason Anderson to ground out to end the Lumberjack threat.

Cloquet’s Zachary Tyman (29) slides in safely under the tag of Superior’s Kaden Kimmes at third base in the third inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Cloquet’s Zachary Tyman (29) slides in safely under the tag of Superior’s Kaden Kimmes at third base in the third inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

After the third inning threat, Johnson kept the Lumberjacks off balance and allowed just three base runners the rest of the game.

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“I felt like I was mixing my pitches around really good and hitting different sides of the plate,” Johnson said. “My catcher, Ethan Ray, did a really nice job calling the game. I was getting them to hit the ball on the ground, and I had a great infield behind me making a lot of plays to help me get through those innings.”

Kell Piggott picked up a pair of clutch hits for Superior. In the third inning, he hit an RBI single and then added a two-RBI triple to centerfield to give the Spartans some breathing room.

Superior’s George Hansen (7) makes a grab at first base as Cloquet’s Joseph Baker (7) tries to slide in the second inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior’s George Hansen (7) makes a grab at first base as Cloquet’s Joseph Baker (7) tries to slide in the second inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

“That is something we talk about every day,” Dembroski said. “We talk about extending the lead and not relaxing and letting the other team have an opportunity to get back in it. That’s something that’s on our minds a lot.”

Cloquet had more than its share of opportunities to close the gap, but couldn’t get the timely hitting to get runners across home plate. After scoring two runs in the first inning, the Lumberjacks left seven men on base in the game. They had the bases loaded in the second inning after three Hansen walks and a runner on third base in the fourth inning, but failed to score in both situations, something that was not a problem earlier in the year.

“That’s definitely been our strength all year is stringing together at bats, finding a way to get on and putting up runs,” Cloquet coach Tyler Olin said. “We were able to do that in the first inning. Even our energy — it was louder in the first inning and we just seemed to flatten out and we were unable to get the job done, specifically with a couple guys in scoring position.”

Superior’s Carter Kalin (14) gets hit by the ball as he slides in safely to second base as Cloquet’s Carsen Psyck (2) tries to field the throw in the third inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior’s Carter Kalin (14) gets hit by the ball as he slides in safely to second base as Cloquet’s Carsen Psyck (2) tries to field the throw in the third inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Olin thought the pitching and defense was a positive for the Lumberjacks. Starter Jack Sorensen allowed a few runs, but was able to limit the damage and keep Cloquet within striking distance until Piggott’s triple in the bottom of the fifth.

“That’s something we’ve been trying to work on,” Olin said. “It’s something that won’t even show up in a score box. We’re starting to do some of those things and we kept it close with a good team. We just want to be playing our best baseball here in the next week.”

Superior (10-3) is next scheduled to play at Grand Rapids at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 25.

Cloquet (7-11) is scheduled to host Hibbing at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 25.

Superior’s Mason Stenberg (18) dives safely back into first base as Cloquet’s Mason Anderson (22) fields the pick off throw in the first inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Superior’s Mason Stenberg (18) dives safely back into first base as Cloquet’s Mason Anderson (22) fields the pick off throw in the first inning of the Spartans win at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex in Superior on Monday, May 24, 2021. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Superior 6, Cloquet 2

WP: T. Johnson 5IP, 0ER, 1H, 6K, 1BB. LP: Jack Sorenson 5IP, 6ER, 9H, 6K, 1BB. S: Mason Stenberg 3x4, RBI; Kaden Kimmes 2R, RBI; Carter Kalin 2x3, 2R; J. Rhodes 2x3; Kell Piggott 3B, 3RBIs. C: Marshall Hayes 1x3, 2RBI.

The headline of this story misstated the location of the game. It was updated at 9 a.m. May 25 with the correct location. The News Tribune regrets the error.