Proclamations, scant games, conquer late winter

John Gilbert

 

Crashing waves at Brighton Beach from this past weekend’s storm. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Crashing waves at Brighton Beach from this past weekend’s storm. Photo credit: John Gilbert

 

It’s been an exciting springtime in sports, if you enjoy watching a lot of satellite TV to follow the Wild, the Timberwolves and the Twins. But it’s been challenging, if you’re eager to follow area sports in the Duluth area, where the never-ending winter has rendered college and high school sports pretty much in the “Ppd” category.

So we learn to embrace the weather’s fickle hold on our region, and that can be plenty exciting. If you ventured down to Canal Park last weekend, you could watch in awe as the waves rolled in, pushed by easterly winds blowing with 40-50 mph force, and they got higher and higher until they were higher than the piers sticking out into the big lake.

We spent last Saturday afternoon making our way up the North Shore to visit the Rustic Inn at Castle Danger, our favorite of many area restauraunts. As usual, Dave Sullivan had some experiments ready for us, such as a Caesar salad with some little bits of hazlenuts and other things that were both undiscernable and part of an amazing harmony of flavors. And that was before the entrees of our old favorite barbecued ribs, or roasted duck, and something I tried, which was lump crab and lamb fritters, on some sort of creative vegetable rissoto. Awesome. And the pies and carrot cake topped it off.

The excitement started on our way up there, when we pulled down and ventured along Stony Point, just south of Knife River, where the waves were enormous, crashing ashore with ice-coating energy.

Watching nature’s ferocity is a sport, isn’t it? It is if you do it right. On Sunday, the blizzard hitting the Twin Cities was enough to make me cancel my driving plans to Saint Paul for Game 3 of the Minnesota Wild-Winnipeg Jets playoff series, but the less-severe storm not yet hitting Duluth allowed us some time to drive along the ice-chunk-strewn roadway at Brighton Beach, where nearly bumper-to-bumper traffic indicated a few hundred other residents had the same idea we did, to get close enough but safely back on the road to watch the huge waves crash onto the rocks.

A few photos can’t do justice to the spectacle. A video could, but we’re not up to that yet in the Reader.

 

UMD's Valerie Hohol wound up for a pitch against Minnesota-Crookston from behind the snow pile last week, at Malosky Stadium. 
UMD's Valerie Hohol wound up for a pitch against Minnesota-Crookston from behind the snow pile last week, at Malosky Stadium. 
Hohol threw a 4-hitter as UMD won 1-0 for a doubleheader sweep against Crookston.
Hohol threw a 4-hitter as UMD won 1-0 for a doubleheader sweep against Crookston.
Center-fielder Hannah Schmoll scored UMD's lone run on a bunt.
Center-fielder Hannah Schmoll scored UMD's lone run on a bunt.
First baseman Jordyn Thomas smacked two of UMD's three hits in the 1-0 game, with signs of never-ending winter in the background.
First baseman Jordyn Thomas smacked two of UMD's three hits in the 1-0 game, with signs of never-ending winter in the background.

Before the blizzard came and dropped a new foot of snow, I did hunt around and found a rare scene — UMD’s women’s softball team had taken over the northwest corner of Malosky Stadium’s artificial turf and laid out its softball field dimensions for a home doubleheader against Minnesota-Crookston. It was 30-something, but it wasn’t raining or snowing. The games went on, virtually in the shadow of the giant esker (for geology fans) located in a long pile in the western end zone.

I couldn’t resist shooting a few shots of pitcher Valerie Hohol, twirling a 4-hit shutout in the second game. The Bulldogs had won 9-1 in the first game, as pitcher Breanna Swint improved her record to 7-0. Hohol is 4-2 as the team hit the road this week — thankfully, for them — with the momentum of a 7-game winning streak.

It was a tough game, and UMD coach Jen Walters won it when shortstop Becy Smith dropped a bunt down toward first to score Hannah Schmoll. Hohol and a remarkable UMD defense, which spent the day diving to make spectacular catches, made it stand up. UMD got only three hits in the game, and first baseman Jordyn Thomas got two of them. She is the sister of Jared Thomas, who just finished his senior year by scoring the winning goals in both the NCAA semifinals and final.

Thomas, captain Karson Kuhlman, and sophomore winger Joey Anderson all signed pro hockey contracts last week. Losing Thomas and Kuhlman, both seniors, was expected, of course, but Joey Anderson signing with the New Jersey Devils, who had drafted him, gives coach Scott Sandelin another player to replace with incoming prospects. We’ll have to sit by and wait for the amateur draft to see how many other Bulldogs might get drafted, and/or enticed to sign pro offers.

Elsewhere on the regional sports front, the AMSOIL Arena ceremony for UMD’s NCAA champion Bulldogs was short but appropriate, with a long line of autograph seekers. Kuhlman, outgoing captain and tournament MVP, gave a brief talk about coming from Cloquet-Esko-Carlton to play for the hometown Bulldogs. He didn’t mention my idea that he had such a great season, maybe the high school team should be renamed “Esko-Cloquet-Carlton.”

UMD captain Karson Kuhlman spoke at the UMD hockey championship celebration at AMSOIL Arena before leaving to join Boston's Providence Bruins pro team.
UMD captain Karson Kuhlman spoke at the UMD hockey championship celebration at AMSOIL Arena before leaving to join Boston's Providence Bruins pro team.

Duluth mayor Emily Larson read a proclamation to honor the UMD men’s hockey team, and two days later, at Grandma’s Sports Garden, she was at it again, reading another proclamation to honor women’s hockey heroes Maddie Rooney and Sidney Morin, finally returned to Duluth from a lengthy national circuit of being honored for their parts of the U.S. Women’s Gold Medal hockey team from the South Korea Olympics.

Be careful shoveling, or snow-blowing, or spinning your wheels, and keep a watchful eye out for the occasional high school, St. Scholastica, Wisconsin-Superior, or UMD baseball or softball games. You can find them, it just takes some dilligent searching. It makes sports fans and players appreciative of the artificial turf at Malosky, and at Wade Stadium, for eample, where various area teams can bus in for early afternoon games while their own fields are under January-quality snow.

We can make it to outlast winter, just keep giving us Wild games, and Twins games from exotic places like Puerto Rico.