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Northwoods League baseball: Duluth East’s Vos helps lead Huskies into playoffs

Former Greyhound taking advantage of second stint with his hometown team.

Joe Vos fields the ball.
Duluth native Joe Vos fields the ball during a Huskies home game against La Crosse on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022 at Wade Stadium in Duluth.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — University of St. Thomas outfielder Joe Vos admitted he started looking for a summer baseball team later than he should have.

Vos, a 2021 Duluth East graduate and a year removed from high school, was still new to the way summer collegiate baseball works.

“I got in contact with the Duluth Huskies coaches just a little bit late, and I signed only a few days before the first game,” Vos said.

The Huskies only had temporary contracts available, and when players began arriving as their teams exited the college baseball playoffs, Vos got the boot.

Now he’s back — just in time — to help lead the Huskies in their best-of-three Northwoods League playoff opener against the Eau Claire Express. Game 1 is at 5:35 p.m. Sunday at Wade Stadium.


“I’m really excited. I’ve never experienced a Northwoods League playoffs before, let alone a full Northwoods League season,” Vos said. “I think being back on the team, and coming into the playoffs, and hopefully being able to continue to make an impact, is huge for me.”

Baseball play.
Duluth native Joe Vos runs for first base after hitting a single during a Huskies home game against La Crosse on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Vos has no regrets that he didn’t land a full contract with the Huskies from the get-go. Rather than dwell on the negatives, he focuses on the positives.

“A temporary contract was something that I was really thankful to have,” Vos said. “It was something I was lucky to get, getting a contract so late, even if it was only a temporary deal.”

That temporary deal paved the way for Vos’ return to the club in late July. It didn’t take him long to make an impact at the plate and in the field for the Duluth Huskies. Vos hit a grand slam in the Huskies’ Aug. 6 home game against the Willmar Stingers.

That gave Duluth its second grand salami of the season, believed to be a club record, according to Huskies superfan Joe Garson. Joe would know. He’s been to every Huskies home game, not just this season — since 2003.

“It’s always nice having a local guy who can play like that,” Huskies field manager Marcus Pointer said of Vos. “He knows how important it is and what this team means to the community. He’s here and doing everything he can to help us win. I’m glad it’s worked out.”

Vos was batting .294 through Wednesday, playing the corner outfield spots and batting leadoff. In just 24 games, he had 16 runs, 16 RBIs and 19 walks for an impressive .439 on-base percentage. You don’t have to be an analytics expert to know those are good numbers.

Vos will return to St. Thomas this fall with a big boost of confidence. Keep in mind he’s only 19. There were going to be some struggles right out of the box, playing at the NCAA Division I level as a true freshman.


“I knew college was different, and I struggled a little bit my freshman year,” Vos said.

Sixteen of the team’s 68 games have been shown on the ESPN+ streaming platform.
Duluth was going for its first title in four championship-game appearances.
Duluth is going for its first title in four championship-game appearances.
Piscitello gets out of a ninth-inning jam as Duluth holds on against Willmar Stingers.
Keller’s single in the fourth inning winds up being the game winner as Duluth pitching wins out.

The Northwoods League proved to be the perfect tonic.

“Now that I’ve been through the Northwoods League, I feel like I’ve adjusted to the level of play,” Vos said. “I kind of got into the full swing of things, where college pitching is the new normal. I definitely have more to improve on. I’ve got more in the tank, for sure. I’m excited for the upcoming season.”

That is, once this one is over.

Vos certainly had some familiarity with the Huskies. Besides the new friends he’s already made, he’s had a couple good buddies on the bench with him as the Duluth roster this summer has also included his former Greyhound teammates, Jaxon and Caden Edwards.

Vos talked about all the fun games he played at Wade Stadium growing up, against Duluth Denfeld or whenever the Wade was one of the only suitable field available. Vos never got to play in front of crowds like the Huskies have drawn these past couple of games, and Vos is loving it.

“With this being my hometown, I’ve got a lot of people behind my back so that you feel like a regular every time you go to the ballpark,” Vos said. “I’ve had my fair share of games here in high school, for sure. This is the time, this is the place.”

Fun team, low attendance

Longtime Huskies season ticket holder Bill Gedde called this the most exciting Huskies team he has seen, calling shortstop Kristian Campbell a rising star.


Unfortunately, Duluth hasn’t drawn the crowds to match. The Huskies ranked last among 21 teams in league attendance, averaging 686 through Wednesday. A season-high 2,145 was on hand for Thursday’s regular-season finale against La Crosse.

That certainly helped the average, but the Huskies never got the late-season bounce they’re accustomed to. The bounce came, for sure, but it just came late.

The Huskies are guaranteed at least one more home game to pump up that average. Sunday’s Duluth forecast appears ideal for another comfortable evening of baseball, with a high of 74 degrees and little chance of rain.

“I think people are starting to realize we’re starting to run out of games,” Huskies owner Michael Rosenzweig said. “Tickets are on sale right now. You should not wait till the last minute, because the line will go all the way down and across the parking lot. So come on down. Let’s fill the place.”

Baseball play.
Duluth Huskies shortstop Kristian Campbell tosses the ball to second baseman Jonathan Vastine for an out during a Huskies home game against La Crosse on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. Vastine’s throw to first was in time to complete a double play.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Have (playoff) team, will travel

After Sunday’s playoff game, Duluth, the Great Plains East first-half champion, will play at second-half champion Eau Claire for Games 2 and, if necessary, Game 3 in the best-of-three series.

The Huskies were 0-for-8 against the Express during the regular season, but don’t tell Pointer it can’t be done. Baseball can be a funny game and Pointer is betting the luck finally goes in their favor.

“We had a lead in probably half of them,” Pointer said. “We’re going to play the odds. It’s hard to beat somebody 10 times in a row, and our guys are confident they can do it. It’s a new season. We’re back to 0-and-0. All you need is a four-game winning streak, really, and you have the title. That’s the mentality we’re going with.”

  • Another thing giving Pointer confidence is there appears to be no quit in these Huskies. With a single, Eddie Satisky recorded the seventh walk-off win of the 2022 season Thursday for the Huskies.
  • Pointer expects to go with Colorado Springs’ Devin Dodson (3-3, 4.39 ERA) in Game 1, Southern Illinois’ Jake Combs (1-1, 3.12 ERA) in Game 2 and Nebraska-Omaha’s Alex Potter (1-0, 3.00 ERA) for Game 3, or relief in Game 1.
Baseball play.
Cam Frederick of the Duluth Huskies slides into third base after hitting a triple during the fourth inning of a Huskies home game against La Crosse on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. Frederick went on to score a run.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

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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