Northland Softball Coaches React to Canceled Season
The three Northland softball teams who made it to state last season discuss what it's like to not defend their section titles.
ESKO, Minn. – On Thursday, the MSHSL announced the cancellation of the spring sports season. And while the announcement is a tough pill to swallow for every team across the Northland, it’s even tougher for the three local softball teams who played in the state tournament last season.
“I think they’re mature enough to understand. But do they like it? No. Just like anybody else,” said Esko softball head coach Jeff Emanuel.
Esko’s chance to advance to state for a fifth straight year ends in heartbreaking fashion.
“It was really a hard day yesterday. I, of course, sent some text messages out to our seniors and thanked them for what they have done for our program,” Emanuel added.
For South Ridge, they won’t get a shot to build off of a successful run in 2019, which saw them win their first section title in program history.
“I came in looking at the talent level and they were doubting themselves a little bit because of what they lost. I said ‘my goodness. I didn’t realize you had this much talent’,” Panthers head coach Steve Jezierski said.
And Cloquet took home third place last season and was aiming for more this year. But they understand that some things are just more important than softball.
“To hear that out of 14 to 18 year old kids is pretty mind-blowing for you and just makes you realize and put it all in perspective,” Lumberjacks head coach Andrew Miller said.
But one thing is certain: the returning players next year will be hungrier than ever.
“We have a ton of juniors so they’ll have that drive for next year as well,” Emanuel said.
“Those kids, you could just see, it was all about community. It was the kind of environment you really want to be in and you want to coach in,” Jezierski added.
“We’ve had to wait a year to defend our section title. But on top of that now, we have the added kind of encouragement to play for this year’s seniors because they didn’t get to prove what they could do on the field for us. And I think those two things are really going to be huge for this underclassmen group, who really cares a lot about our three seniors that are not going to be with us,” Miller said.
The MSHSL also announced that the summer no-contact period was reduced from seven days to just three for July 3-5.