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Baseball: Huskies’ Pointer looking forward to having more experienced team next summer

Duluth manager helped team overcome rough start to make playoffs.

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Duluth Huskies outfielder Jake Brill of Maple throws the ball in from near the wall during a home game against the Willmar Stingers on Saturday, July 24, 2021, at Wade Stadium. Brill was a bright spot for the Huskies this summer, with the late addition to the club batting .296 during the regular season. File / Duluth News Tribune

August is often described as a whirlwind for the college baseball players of the Northwoods League, but the same goes for the coaches.

The Waterloo Bucks had just eliminated the Duluth Huskies with a 6-0 playoff victory Aug. 16, and it wasn’t long before Duluth manager Marcus Pointer was back in Pacifica, California, just south of San Francisco, preparing for his job as pitching coach for Skyline College in nearby San Bruno. Skyline was already set to have physicals and compliance meetings this past Tuesday.

“It happens quickly,” Pointer said. “It starts to turn around in a hurry; it kind of just keeps going.”

So quickly, in fact, that Pointer is already working on the first signings for the 2022 summer as the Duluth Huskies offered Pointer another season in charge, and he accepted.

“In my exit meeting I talked with my coaching staff about their interest in coming back, and there was more than enough positive feedback, so we agreed to the terms and are looking forward to being in Duluth next summer,” Pointer said.

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Huskies general manager Greg Culver said the feeling was mutual.

“Marcus is respected around the league,” Culver said. “The umpires respect him, he does a great job and brings in great kids. Some teams were built to take it all — there was no development of players. We had a lot of freshmen and developed talent.”

Pointer, 32, recently finished his second season as Huskies coach. Duluth went 30-38 (30-40 counting two playoff losses to Waterloo), but for the second year under Pointer, the Huskies were much improved in the second half, going 18-16 and surging to the playoffs for the first time since finishing as league runner-up in 2018.

“We told the guys all summer long that we still had a chance to do something special if we put our minds together and showcase it on the field, and we did that,” Pointer said. “It was nice to see that we ended the summer on a positive note.

“We had guys who hung in there and didn’t give up on it, and making the playoffs was a testament to those guys who stuck with it.”

While Duluth had its share of players remain throughout the summer, as is the case so often in the Northwoods League, the Huskies lost plenty through attrition as some players were shut down early. They only had nine pitchers on the roster going into the Waterloo playoff series.

As a team, Duluth was sixth in the 22-team league in batting average at .262, and easily had the lowest strikeout total (426) of any of the full-time teams.

On the flip side, Duluth’s 5.32 team ERA ranked 18th and Huskies pitchers were dead-last with 469 walks given up, almost seven per game.

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This group was young, really young, chock-full of players coming off their freshman seasons of college, in part, a product of Duluth not playing in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic while other teams did. Pointer was looking forward to getting many of them back, saying he planned to keep as many as 10 players for 2022, a high number by Northwoods League standards.

“It’ll be nice to see some familiar faces next year,” Pointer said. “We’ll kind of start building the team with those guys who already have been in the organization and in the Northwoods League, and go from there. That’s kind of what I’m looking forward to most, bringing back some guys who really progressed this summer and really represented our organization well.”

So Pointer will continue doing what he does best, juggling his commitment to Skyline College while working on signing players for the Duluth Huskies’ 2022 season.

“You’ve got to stay ahead,” Pointer said with a laugh.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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