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Duval, Huskies fend off MoonDogs to make it 3 in a row

Max Duval didn't have the kind of spring at the University of Hawaii that he wanted. In fact, he didn't even hit .200. "Buck-85," Duval said of his .186 batting average. But you would never know it based on his performance so far with the Duluth ...

Home-plate high-fives
Huskies outfielder James Ramsay is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run during Monday night's game against Mankato at Wade Stadium. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)

Max Duval didn't have the kind of spring at the University of Hawaii that he wanted.

In fact, he didn't even hit .200.

"Buck-85," Duval said of his .186 batting average.

But you would never know it based on his performance so far with the Duluth Huskies, as evidenced Monday night.

Duval went 2-for-4 with a double, three runs and two RBIs as Duluth held on for an 8-7 Northwoods League victory before 514 at Wade Stadium.

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"My spring didn't go how I wanted it, but the last couple weeks I started to find my swing, and then I carried that over to here," Duval said. "The biggest thing so far is three wins in three games. That's obviously why I'm here, to help the Huskies win, and so far, it's going well. Everyone is doing their part."

At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Duval has all the makings of a pro prospect, but if you're going to make it as a first baseman, you have to produce at the plate. And produce, he has.

After spending some time in his hometown of San Luis Obispo, Calif., Duval already has two home runs through three games since joining Duluth on Saturday, including a grand slam Sunday night that provided insurance in the Huskies' 8-3 win at Alexandria. He almost had a third home run Monday as his two-run double in the fourth inning went to the wall in right field and helped give Duluth an 8-1 lead. Duval also had what could have been ruled a third hit called an error.

But if the Huskies (4-2) have an Achilles' heel this season, it could be their fielding as three straight errors in the sixth inning helped Mankato (4-2) climb back in it.

"It certainly wasn't pretty, but a win is a win," Duval said.

Mankato leadoff hitter Jorge Flores pulled the MoonDogs to within a run with a solo homer to left in the eighth, but reliever Nate Carter closed it out for the Huskies with a 1-2-3 ninth. Duval made a nice backhanded stop on the last play, flipping the ball to Carter to end it.

"Max is a big physical kid who has a great approach at the plate," Duluth coach Daniel Hersey said. "He struggled a little bit offensively this spring, but he's putting his work in to get his swing down, and it shows. This league is all about developing guys, and Max is a student of the game. He's a great kid, so we couldn't be happier for him."

Brian Hansen and Luke Campbell added two hits and two RBIs apiece for Duluth, while Blair Moore had three hits and three RBIs to lead Mankato.

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"We gave Duluth a lot of free passes, and it's hard to win games that way," Mankato coach Mike Orchard said. "Our starter was only able to go an inning, and that sets you up for a tough night."

The same teams rematch at 11:35 a.m. today as part of Kid's Day brought to you by the Duluth News Tribune, so these teams need to make a quick turnaround.

For Duval, Duluth might not feel like Hawaii, or even California, weather-wise, but winning is something he can get used to.

"It's a little chilly here in Duluth, but if we keep winning, I can deal with it," Duval said. "Running around and winning some ball games is fun for everybody. I believe I can play at the next level, but you've got to come out here and show it off. That's what playing here is all about."

Safe at second
Derrik Nelson of the Huskies slides in safe at second base before Mankato's Jorge Flores gets the ball Monday night at Wade Stadium. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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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