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Huskies stay in first place despite loss

With a runner on first and one out, Jean Figueroa launched a line drive to deep center field in the eighth inning of the Duluth Huskies' Northwoods League baseball game against the Eau Claire Express on Tuesday.

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Duluth Huskies catcher Dominic Miroglio (left) tags out Eau Claire’s Brady Burzynski at home plate on Tuesday at Wade Stadium. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

With a runner on first and one out, Jean Figueroa launched a line drive to deep center field in the eighth inning of the Duluth Huskies’ Northwoods League baseball game against the Eau Claire Express on Tuesday.
Between the 380-foot signs, Express center fielder Brady Burzynski leaped to snare the ball with a catch worthy of SportsCenter’s Top 10.
That, as they say, is the difference between winning and losing as Eau Claire held on for a 4-2 victory before 1,017 at Wade Stadium.
“Brady has made some spectacular catches for us so far,” Express pitching coach Vic Cable said, “but that one took the cake. That was a heck of a catch.”
Despite the setback, Duluth (13-8) remains in first place in the North Division and appears to have a stronger team than the one that went 30-42 last summer. The Huskies have a team ERA of 3.78 and are averaging 1.5 extra-base hits per game. While the team batting average is just .258, that’s to be expected early in the season in a league where college hitters used to aluminum bats are adjusting to using wood. And the clutch hitting has been there … except for Tuesday.
“The clutch hit eluded us today,” Huskes manager Daniel Hersey said. “We’ve been more fundamentally sound this year, and the team chemistry has been unbelievable. They enjoy coming to the park every day. We just have to keep coming out and working hard every day, and things will take care of themselves. You’re not going to win all of them.”
While Hersey played with his 2-year-old son, Nolan, in the infield afterward, he added: “When you drop one like this, you just have to wake up tomorrow morning and get back at it.”
The Huskies have seven returnees from last year, and an eighth, first baseman Alex Wojciechowski of Minnesota Duluth, played in 2013. That has made a big difference in the clubhouse.
“They’ve been huge,” Hersey said.
While “Wojo” has only been hitting .250, about what he hit two years ago, that’s on par with the team. He leads the Huskies with two triples and 14 RBIs. He, along with Figueroa, T.J. Martin and Matt McLaughlin, led the team with two hits apiece Tuesday.
“I definitely feel more comfortable at the plate,” Wojciechowski said. “It took me a lot longer last time. I’m hitting the ball hard. On the road, it’s been right at guys, but I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully they’ll fall.”
Wojciechowski was on first when Burzynski made his circus catch and had to hustle back to first to avoid getting doubled up.
“I definitely thought it was dropping,” Wojciechowski said. “If we get that one to drop, you never know what happens. It was an amazing catch, and that’s just the way it happens sometimes.”
That catch helped secure the victory for Kale Latorre, a mid-reliever for Montevallo who came into the game in the third inning and logged six innings for the Express (9-12).
Cable led the team in the absence of Eau Claire manager Dale Varsho, who was tossed in the third inning for arguing a foul-tip call.
“Kale sucked it up,” Cable said. “He said he hasn’t thrown that much since high school. He wanted to be out there and proved it.”

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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