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Huskies get a second chance

A new, expanded playoff format in the Northwoods League this season has given the Duluth Huskies a second chance to make a run at the Summer Collegiate World Series.

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Duluth Huskies

A new, expanded playoff format in the Northwoods League this season has given the Duluth Huskies a second chance to make a run at the Summer Collegiate World Series.

And it’s a format the Huskies believe suits their strengths.
“The way we’ve been hitting, our lineup could blow up at anytime,” said Huskies starting pitcher Toby Anderson out of the University of Minnesota. “We’ve been struggling a little bit, but we’ve still been getting a lot of hits. Once we start getting those runners around the bases and in, we can do some damage.”
The Huskies will travel to Willmar today to face the Stingers in a one-game playoff at 7 p.m. at Bill Taunton Stadium, with the winner advancing to play either St. Cloud or Rochester in another one-game playoff on Tuesday, with the top remaining seed hosting.
St. Cloud (30-8), the North Division second-half champion, is the North’s top seed after finishing with the best overall record in the division. Willmar (24-13), the North Division first-half champs, is No. 2, followed by Duluth (40-32) and Rochester (39-33).
“It’s always good to get a crack at the playoffs and see what we can do there. We’re a little beat up but we’re going to give it our best go and make a run,” said Alex Wojciechowski, the Huskies first baseman out of Minnesota Duluth. “If we can come out and get a few runs early on and play an all-around good game, you never know what can happen.
“We’ve been up and down here, but I definitely feel like the last few games we’ve been picking it up a bit. Hopefully we can keep that going.”
On the other side of the bracket, first and second half South Division champions Kenosha (25-11) is the top seed and will host fourth-seeded La Crosse (40-31) tonight while second-seeded Madison (43-28) hosts third seeded Green Bay (41-30).
The Northwoods League playoffs previously featured only four teams - the four division winners. The only way to earn a wild card spot was if the same team won the first and second half division titles.
The first two rounds are one-game playoffs to be played at the homes of the four division champions or top seeds. The final two remainings teams - one from the North and another from the South division - will play in the best-of-three Summer Collegiate World Series that begins Thursday. The South Division will host the series after winning the all-star game.
“I like it. It keeps the competitiveness going for longer and tries to keep guys here,” Huskies manager Daniel Hersey said about the new playoff format. “It’s a good thing. It rewards some teams that had good summers and gives them a chance to win the league.”
The Huskies finished fourth in the North Division in the first half of the season after going 20-16,  four games back of Willmar. The Huskies finished third in the second half after again going 20-16.
The Huskies and Stingers split their eight-game regular season series with both teams going 2-2 at home against the other.
The Stingers have had the Huskies number as of late, though, winning four of the last five meetings, including a two-game sweep of Duluth last week in Willmar. The margin in both Stingers wins was a single run, which has been the case in five of the two teams’ eight meetings.
“Both of them are difficult places to play,” Hersey said about the North’s two division winners, Willmar and St. Cloud. “I always enjoy playing both of them because the games are played the right way. It’s always a battle, a dogfight. In a one-game playoff, win and you continue to play.”
Cal Stevenson, a freshman out of Nevada, led the Huskies in hitting during the regular season, batting .326 with 24 RBIs, a double, four triples and a home run. Wojciechowski and Alex Greene, who is no longer with the team, led the Huskies in RBIs, driving in 27 run each.
Wojciechowski batted .289 during the regular season, but has been the Huskies hottest hitter in the last five games, going 11-for-20 (.550) with a double, home run and three RBIs.
“I like where we’re at offensively, defensively and on the mound,” Hersey said. “We just have to go out and play our game and do the little things we’ve continued to do all season - pitch, play defense and come up with the clutch hits as needed.”

  • The Huskies closed out the regular season with a 6-1 loss at Thunder Bay on Sunday.

Duluth was held to only two hits and both came from center fielder Danny Lee. Batting leadoff, Lee had a single in the first inning and a double in the eighth that he eventually scored on. Starting pitcher Spencer Diedrich out of UMD look the loss after giving up six runs - three of which were earned - off seven hits, two walks and a strikeout. It was his first start and third appearance of the season.

  • Stevenson was the Huskies lone representative on the 30-member Northwoods League Postseason All-Star Team, which was announced Sunday. La Crosse shortstop Mason McCoy was named the Most Valuable Player, Battle Creek’s Alex Hermeling was named Pitcher of the Year and Kenosha’s Duffy Dyer was named Manager of the Year.
    • Sunday’s Box Score

    Border Cats 6, Huskies 1 Duluth    Thunder Bay
        ab    r    h    bi        ab    r    h    bi
    Lee cf    4    1    2    0    James dh    4    1    1    1
    Comer 3b    4    0    0    0    Batten ss    4    0    0    0
    Heck 2b    2    0    0    0    Rizzie 1b, lf    4    2    3    1
    Wjchwsk 1b    3    0    0    0    Gellenbeck rf    3    1    1    0
    Barzilli ss    4    0    0    0     James rf    1    0    0    0
    Martin c    4    0    0    0    Nolan c    3    1    1    1
    Figueroa rf    4    0    0    0    Mogues 1b    3    0    2    2
    Cammck dh    3    0    0    0     McKown lf    1    0    0    0
    Smith lf    1    0    0    0    Dutto 3b    4    0    0    0
                        Baldwin cf    2    1    0    0
                        Jorgenson 2b    2    0    0    0
    Totals    29    1    2    0    Totals    31    6    8    5
    Duluth    000 000    010    -    1
    Thunder Bay    000 150    00x    -    6
    2B - Lee (4), Rizzie (15). HP - Smith (1). SF - Wojciechowski (3). SH - Jorgenson (0). SB - James (3), Nolan (1), Mogues (7). E - Martin (5), Figueroa (7), Jorgenson (6).
    LOB - Duluth 7, Thunder Bay 4.

        IP    H    R    ER    BB    SO    
    Duluth
    Diedrich (L, 0-1)    4.2    7    6    3    2    1
    Anderson    2.1    1    0    0    0    1
    Powell    0.2    0    0    0    0    0
    Rude    0.1    0    0    0    0    1
    Thunder Bay
    York (W, 3-1)    5.2    1    0    0    3    1
    Morris    0.1    0    0    0    0    0
    Johnson    0.1    0    0    0    0    1
    Sellers    0.1    0    0    0    0    1
    Stegger    0.1    0    0    0    0    0
    Suzuki    0.2    1    1    1    1    0
    Loret de Mola    0.1    0    0    0    0    0
    McEachern    0.1    0    0    0    0    0
    Weissert    0.2    0    0    0    0    1
    WP - Diedrich (1). HB - York (6).
    T - 2:22. A - 1,386.

  • Northwoods League Playoffs
    First Round
    Today’s Games
    Duluth at Willmar, 7:05 p.m.
    Rochester at St. Cloud, 7:05 p.m.
    La Crosse at Kenosha, 7:05 p.m.
    Green Bay at Madison, 7:05 p.m.
  • NORTHWOODS LEAGUE
  • Second Half

Final Standings North Division
    W    L    Pct    GB
St. Cloud    30    8    .789    -
x-Willmar    24    13    .639    5½
Duluth    20    16    .556    9
Rochester    19    19    .500    11
Alexandria    18    19    .486    11½
Thunder Bay    16    20    .444    13
Eau Claire    16    21    .432    13½
Mankato    15    21    .417    14
Waterloo    13    23    .371    16
x-first-half champion
South Division
    W    L    Pct    GB
x-Kenosha    25    11    .694    -
Madison    23    13    .639    2
La Crosse    21    16    .568    4½
Green Bay    19    17    .528    6
Wis. Rapids    18    18    .500    7
Lakeshore    19    21    .475    8
Battle Creek    14    22    .389    11
Wisconsin    12    24    .333    13
Kalamazoo    9    30    .231    17½
x-first-half champion
Saturday’s Results
Duluth 4, Thunder Bay 2
La Crosse 6, Madison 1, first game
La Crosse 2, Madison 0, second game
Alexandria 14, Rochester 12
St. Cloud 2, Kenosha 0
Mankato 8, Eau Claire 7
Wisconsin Rapids 6, Green Bay 4
Lakeshore 4, Kalamazoo 3
Willmar 7, Waterloo 5
Battle Creek 8, Wisconsin 7
Today’s Games
Thunder Bay 6, Duluth 1
Rochester 7, Alexandria 4
Wisconsin Rapids 8, Green Bay 7
Madison 10, La Crosse 7
Battle Creek at Wisconsin, cancelled
Kalamazoo 6, Lakeshore 2
Mankato 10, Eau Claire 1
Willmar 5, Waterloo 3
St. Cloud 10, Kenosha 6
End of regular season

 

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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