Northwoods League baseball: Despite setback, Huskies hope to ‘take care of business’ in push for title
Georgia Tech’s Campbell has become a leader playing for the other Duluth city.
DULUTH — Shortstop Kristian Campbell was a late addition to the Duluth Huskies’ roster, so forgive the Georgia Tech product for thinking he was going to be playing summer ball for a baseball team in Duluth, Georgia, not the Duluth 1,199 miles to the north.
“My parents said, ‘No, you’re going to Minnesota,’ and I was like, ‘OK, cool.’”
Just how cool?
The high temperature in Duluth, Georgia, on Wednesday was 88 degrees. The game-time temperature for the Duluth Huskies Northwoods League contest against the Rochester Honkers Wednesday was 48.
Campbell doesn’t care. He just wants to play.
“It’s not too bad,” he said. “We had a couple games earlier in the season that were colder than this.”
Campbell is even starting to sound like a Minnesotan.
Campbell did his part with a hit, hit by pitch, walk and pair of stolen bases, in addition to being flawless in the field, but it wasn’t enough as the Huskies fell 6-2 before 514 at Wade Stadium.
Fortunately for the Huskies, Willmar thumped Eau Claire 10-2 Wednesday so the Express’ lead in the Great Plains East stays at 1.5 games.
Duluth has five games remaining in the first half, which ends with the games on Monday, July 4, before a league-wide off day Tuesday.
“We feel like we’ve put ourselves in a pretty decent spot to where if we take care of business, we’re good,” Huskies coach Marcus Pointer said.
The winner of each half receives a berth in the NWL playoffs (if the same team wins both halves, the second spot goes to the next-best overall record).
Duluth came in having won two straight after sweeping Bismarck 7-2 and 12-8 over the weekend before being off Monday and Tuesday.
“I’m always improving and always trying to help my team win games,” Campbell said. “I feel like that’s the main part of it right now. We’re coming down to the end, so we’re just going to try to win these last games before the half, and I’m going to try to do whatever I can to help us do that.”
Duluth (15-13) certainly had their chances to win Wednesday but left 10 men on base and committed three errors. Hudson was the lone Duluth player with multiple hits with two, including a double, RBI and run, while starting pitcher Harrison Kreiling of Nebraska Omaha allowed two runs in five innings.
Nathan Hansen allowed two runs in five innings to earn the win for Rochester (13-16) while three Honkers relievers held the Huskies to one hit and no runs over the final four innings.
Campbell came into the contest second on the Huskies in batting average at .363 (catcher Eddy Rosario was first at .369) while leading the team with 21 RBIs. Campbell was second in the league with 15 stolen bases and certainly helped his cause in that department against Rochester. At 6-foot-3 and with great speed, he covers a lot of ground at short, too.
Pointer sees Campbell as a draft prospect.
“He’s been awesome,” Pointer said. “He came in with the intent to play at a high level and has done just that. He has fit in perfectly for us.”
With Campbell leading the way, the Huskies came into Wednesday tied for seventh in the 22-team Northwoods League with 111 stolen bases through 27 games.
“One through nine we run,” Pointer said. “I know that some other parks are a lot smaller and teams kind of build it to try to leave the yard. We can’t necessarily build our roster that way because the Wade is so big. We based our team on speed, and speed doesn’t go into a slump. It translates to any field, any park.”
The Huskies rank sixth with a team batting average of .262. Duluth’s team ERA ranked 18th but has typically been improved in the second half under Pointer.
“We’ve been engaged,” Pointer said. “We had a real rough patch on the road, and that was tough. A lot of the guys hadn’t experienced an eight-day road trip before. We took our lumps but they came back and handled business at home.”
The Huskies enjoyed their days off Monday and Tuesday, which also happened to be Campbell’s 20th birthday. He celebrated by going out with his teammates. He got a Dave’s Burger at Famous Dave’s in Canal Park. Then they went to the movie theater to watch “Top Gun: Maverick.”
“I liked it. It was fun,” said Campbell, who just completed his freshman year at Georgia Tech and only needs experience. “I’m having a good time. I’m very happy with the progress I’ve been making but I’m not happy where I’m at. I’m going to keep pushing to get better each day and I’m excited for when I get back to Georgia so I can show them what I can do there.”