RUNNERS-UP AGAIN: Huskies fall to Fond du Lac to finish second in Northwoods League for a third time
Jacob Adams wished he could have gone and hid somewhere after making an error in the third and final game of the Northwoods League Summer Collegiate World Series, but there are few places to hide on a baseball diamond.
So instead, the Fond du Lac shortstop had to do what he does best, keep playing, and it was rather fitting when he caught the final out in the Dock Spiders' 4-3 victory over the Duluth Huskies on Friday night before 1,464 at Wade Stadium.
"It was definitely tough making that error, but I had my teammates pick me up. They've all been through it before," Adams said after dropping an easy fly ball in the sixth inning and then watching as the Huskies took a 3-2 lead because of it. "It wasn't a tough play. I just messed it up, and they took advantage of it. So it felt great to finish the game off on the same type of play."
For the Huskies (50-27), it was so close, yet so far away for the third time in the Summer Collegiate World Series. The team set a franchise record for wins in a season and also set a Northwoods League record by scoring 501 runs under first-year manager Tyger Pederson.
"We had our chances," said Pederson, who said he would like to return to lead the team again next summer. "We had a couple balls go our way early and they had a couple balls go their way late. It happens."
After Adams' drop, Fond du Lac (43-32) came back with two runs in the top of the seventh, including a hit batter on a pitch Duluth felt had hit the dirt first.
The Huskies put runners aboard in each of the final three innings but couldn't push a run across, including having the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the eighth.
The game didn't end without controversy as the leadoff hitter in the bottom the ninth inning, General McArthur, got plunked twice, only to have the umpire keep him at the plate, apparently saying he leaned into the pitches.
The Huskies' Tony Monroy reached base with a single and advanced to second, but with two outs, Northwoods League MVP Augie Isaacson flew out to Adams on the first pitch and the Dock Spiders stormed the field.
"We played well all year long, but it just didn't happen this game. That's baseball," Isaacson said. "I love these guys. This season was awesome, and we bonded so well all year long. It was a lot of fun. You play 72 games, and we'll have some memories we'll cherish for the rest of our lives. It was a great time."
Nicholas Sogard and Sean Watkins had two hits apiece to lead the Huskies, while Alex Henwood and Cole Zabowski had two hits each for the Dock Spiders and Adams had a triple.
Jon Young earned the win in relief of starter Peyton Sanderlin, while NWL All-Star reliever Michael Hope got Fond du Lac out of the jam in the eighth and then closed out the ninth for the save.
"Michael came out and did what he's been doing for us all year," Dock Spiders coach Zac Charbonneau said shortly after getting a Gatorade bath. "What a phenomenal year. We don't panic in these close games. We've got a lot of guys who have played some big-time ball, and Adams is one of them. I think it was rather fitting he made the last out. He's an older guy who has been around the block, played in the JUCO World Series. I told him make a play for us. He waited for that spot, and he did."
The crowd tried to will the Huskies to victory, including chanting MVP when Isaacson, who was in his second year with the team and was a fan favorite, reached base.
"That was awesome," Isaacson said. "They were awesome all year long.
Pederson called Isaacson a heck of a player afterward, and Isaacson returned the favor.
"I respect him so much," Isaacson said of Pederson. "You can't hang your heads because this a league where you try to grow and get better. It didn't go our way, but you just have to keep trying to get better every day."
Pederson's first year with Duluth couldn't have gone much better, and Huskies fans are hoping for more seasons of Pederson's high-octane style of baseball.
"These guys played their butts off all year, and afterward I told them I loved each and every one them," he said. "They played hard for me for 77 games, and you can't take that away from them. They played hard every single day, and that's all I could ask of them. It's always tough saying goodbye, especially when you have a team this close. I care about them, and they care about me, but that's the way it goes. But I told them, if they ever need anything, text or call me and I've got their back."