Tyger Pederson has been aggressive when it comes to baserunning his entire first season as Duluth Huskies manager.
So it was no surprise to see the Huskies continue to push the envelope in the decisive Game 3 of the Summer Collegiate World Series at Wade Stadium on Friday night.
But the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders used that aggressiveness against the Huskies en route to claiming a 4-3 victory and their first Northwoods League title.
Though they later loaded the bases in the eighth inning and failed to score, ultimately two earlier plays cost the Huskies a chance to win their first title in the franchise's 16-year history. They instead settled for a third runner-up finish.
In the sixth inning, with the score tied 2-2, Northwoods League MVP Augie Isaacson stood at first base. Isaacson, who led the league in stolen bases with 39, had been given the steal sign and edged ever so far out on the basepaths. But he never got the chance to run as he was picked off first by starting pitcher Peyton Sanderlin for the second out.
"We set the record in the Northwoods League for runs scored (501) and we were aggressive, and we were going to stick to that plan. It didn't work out our way this time, but that's baseball," Isaacson said. "I got caught leaning. I got the steal sign and was going to go but just got picked."
When Dock Spiders shortstop Jacob Adams dropped the third out on a Carlos Moseley popup, and Chris Gilbody and Sean Watkins followed with singles, it meant Duluth only scored one run to take a 3-2 lead instead of adding that pivotal insurance run.
Pederson, however, wasn't about to cast any blame.
"Sometimes you play on that side of aggressiveness and sometimes you get out. It happens," he said. "No different than making outs any other way. But these guys have been playing aggressive all year and playing exactly the way I want. That's how we play ball and it got us all the way to the championship game."
In the seventh, after the Dock Spiders had regained the lead at 4-3, General McArthur IV led off with a single. With one out, McArthur, one of the fastest players on the team, took off on a wild pitch, rounded second and sprinted for third where he was gunned down by catcher Braden Stutzman.
Instead of a runner at second with one out, the Huskies were out of the inning when Julian Escobedo flew out to center.
But under Pederson the Huskies don't play with a conservative approach. It's an all-or-nothing attitude that has worked throughout the season.
"They play hard for me and they love it," Pederson said. "That's the way you play baseball, you play hard and aggressive and smart. Sometimes balls bounce your way and sometimes they don't."
His players all bought into the system.
"I love the way Tyger plays - he's a steals-type of coach, he likes to get on base and get runs - and that fit into my game perfectly," said Isaacson, who is headed to NCAA Division I Dallas Baptist as a graduate transfer from Friends University.
The game wasn't without further theatre. Not once, but twice in the ninth, McArthur was hit by a pitch that the home-plate umpire said the right fielder leaned into and denied him a spot at first. McArthur ended up grounding out but may have scored had he been given first, considering Tony Monroy followed with a single and Escobedo grounded out.
"It didn't go the way we wanted it to, but I'm really happy with this team and what they accomplished," Pederson said. "We put the Huskies on the map and people know we're here to play."