The Duluth Huskies and La Crosse Loggers took the field as if it weren't raining on Sunday afternoon and attempted to get their Northwoods League baseball game in as scheduled.
That plan didn't last long.
When the game resumed, the Huskies took it to the Loggers for seven innings, only to let it all go down the sinkhole, blowing a six-run lead in a 10-8 loss after La Crosse rallied with eight runs in the top of the eighth inning.
"That was like a punch in the face," one fan said while exiting.
The game started at 3:05 p.m., as scheduled, despite a drizzle coming down, with normally sun-splashed front-row regulars like Louie St. George Jr., Bill Gedde and Jon Winter seeking higher ground under the Wade Stadium canopy, where it was cool but dry.
Duluth starter Erik Kaiser opened the contest by throwing a four-pitch walk on balls that were juuuuust a bit outside. The artificial turf at Wade Stadium works wonders, not miracles, and pitchers still have to be able to grip the ball. That wasn't happening.
After a two-hour rain delay, the Huskies scored three runs in the fourth, four in the fifth and another in the seventh to take a seemingly commanding 8-2 lead before the disastrous eighth as Jake McDonald struggled and Tim Holdgrafer wasn't able to bail them out.
"It's kind of easier to want to change some things after the fact, but it's early in the season, and we want to see how guys can handle some adversity," Huskies manager Marcus Pointer said. "I've got all the faith in these guys. You never want to lose a game, but hopefully we can learn from it."
The big blows in the eighth inning for La Crosse came via Cody Jefferis, who hit a triple, and Ryan Holgate, who hit a double the Loggers' play-by-play man thought was a grand slam but had actually gotten caught between the padding and right-field fence (the radio guy should have known Wade Stadium is where would-be homers go to die).
At any rate, La Crosse seized the lead.
"That's exactly why you keep playing until the end," said Loggers manager Brian Lewis. "Most of the game, through the middle parts of it, it felt like it was never going to end from our perspective, but then our bats suddenly woke up."
Duluth, suddenly trailing 10-8, had two innings to do some damage, but instead of keeping the pressure on like early, the Huskies went down with a whimper, with 1-2-3 innings in both the eighth and ninth. The game that felt like it was never going to end finished up in 5 hours, 31 minutes. A surprising number in the announced crowd of 340 were there till the end, so you couldn't blame them for being dejected, having stuck it out only to receive a symbolic gut punch.
"Rain delays are no fun, but at least it happened early," Pointer said. "We were swinging the bats, hitting balls hard, but give them credit for that big inning. Baseball is definitely a momentum game."
Jefferis, Holgate, Brett Hawkins and Jacob English had two hits apiece to lead La Crosse (6-7).
Noah Marcelo, Lance Ford, Matt Hogan and Danny Zimmerman had two hits apiece to lead Duluth (7-6), with Zimmerman doubling twice.
The teams combined to leave 25 men on base, including 15 by the Loggers.
The same teams rematch at 6:35 p.m. today at Wade Stadium on a day that is expected to be mostly sunny with a high of 71.
Zimmerman, a California native who plays collegiately for Michigan, is listed as a pitcher on the roster, but the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder has shown plenty of promise at the plate and at first base for the Huskies. Right now he can play two ways, but Duluth plans to designate him as a pitcher on the June 15 deadline, as per his college's wishes. He still will be allowed to be a designated hitter but will no longer be able to play the field.
"I've always been kind of 50-50," Zimmerman said, referring to pitching and being a position player. "This year I had shoulder discomfort and didn't pitch on the mound. It was just fatigue from throwing a lot of innings, and I needed a timeout, so I've been playing first base. I've thrown one inning so far, but that was my first inning I threw in six or seven months. I should get some more opportunities coming up."
• There was a moment of silence before the game for Huskies team owner Michael Rosenzweig's father, Joe Rosenzweig, who passed away over the weekend at age 92.