Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Huskies Extend the Summer

Not that summer ends when the Duluth Huskies are done, but it's nice to see the local baseball season extended.

After all, no one is worried about the Twins or Brewers doing anything this season.

(Let's be nice, though. The Twins just made headlines by setting a Major League Baseball record, scoring 23 straight runs off home runs over six games. Probably a good thing, because the hitters had three hits in 48 at bats with runners in scoring position.)

Anyway, the Huskies have been a good franchise in the Northwoods League since joining in 2003. They haven't always drawn wonderfully well, but we haven't heard a lot of threats -- real or implied -- about the franchise leaving or being dissolved. Couldn't say that about the Duluth-Superior Dukes when they were around, because it never seemed like there was a full season without someone saying the team would be on the move if attendance didn't improve.

Duluth has experienced some success in the league, but the Huskies hadn't made the playoffs since 2007 before this summer. They hadn't played in the league championship series since 2004.

Until this year.

Duluth advanced to the Summer Collegiate World Series with a 2-1 win over Waterloo Tuesday in Waterloo. The Huskies won the series 2-0.

On paper, it appeared to be a bit of a mismatch. Waterloo beat the Huskies by eight games in the standings, and Duluth had to get in based on overall record, because the Bucks won both halves in the North Division. Of course, baseball games aren't played on paper. They're played on the internet.


Anyway, the Huskies bucked that trend throughout the season, taking eight of ten meetings from the Bucks. Kept it going when it mattered most, too, and now Duluth has a chance to play for a championship.

Wade Stadium rocks when it's nice out and people are drawn in. The Huskies really had it going down the stretch of the regular season, bringing in some huge crowds that took advantage of good weather to see a hot baseball team.

The Dukes had those nights, too, but when you pay players, the bottom line is a little tougher to deal with. I don't know what the attendance average is for the Huskies to post a profit, but I know it was higher for the Dukes because the players drew salaries, no matter how small. And the Dukes didn't have enough nice crowds to keep things going.

Once other cities started building nice, new stadiums, Duluth was priced out of that league.

The Northwoods League is a perfect fit. Players aren't paid a salary, and travel expenses are kept as small as possible. The Huskies will be just fine in this league, and stretches like the weather we've been seeing should help put more bodies in the seats at the Wade.

GM Craig Smith and field boss Daniel Hersey have done a magnificent job with this club. Sometimes, you look at the batting order and think they're a little short offensively compared to other clubs, but Duluth gets timely hitting from all over the place (they had a comeback win recently where almost all the major damage was done by the bottom of the order), and they pitch as well as anyone in the league.

Hopefully, Hersey gets a chance to give the ball to league Pitcher of the Year Clay Chapman in the title series. If he does, you can bet the Huskies will have a chance to win that game. And the way this team has been pitching, they have a chance against either Lakeshore or Madison.

It's fun to see relevant baseball from someone this deep into the summer, isn't it?

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