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Huskies Fight Back, Win Slugfest in Eau Claire

The Duluth Huskies (19-22, 4-2 second half) showed grit and resilience in winning a 12-11 slugfest in Eau Claire to edge the Express (18-24, 3-3 second half) on Monday night.

Garrett Brown (3-3) was victim to an early Express offensive barrage and got knocked out by the fourth inning, after giving up eight runs on seven hits, but eventually Husky bats were able to push opposing starter Lane Ramsey (0-2) to a similar fate, knocking him around for seven runs on nine hits in five innings. Neither starter received a decision.

Three additional pitchers were sent forth on either side to shut down relentless bats, and eventually it was Tre Brown (1-0) who picked up the win by being in the right spot at the right time despite giving up a game-tying home run to Matt Duce in the eighth. The Huskies answered back with a two-out, Isaac Collins RBI double in the top of the ninth off Kenny Ogg (0-2) to take the lead and set up All-Star Kevin Folman for his ninth save of the year.

It was the Huskies who struck first on a two-run jack by Isaac Collins, who would finish the day with three RBIs, but the lead was short-lived as the Express staged a two-out rally in the bottom of the inning to take a 5-2 lead, highlighted by a two-run single by Robby Campillo.

The Huskies scored three unanswered runs heading to the bottom of the fourth to pull within one, but the Express retained and built on a 6-5 lead to knock Garrett Brown out of the game with no outs in the third. Ricky Mitchell made his third appearance of the year, inheriting two baserunners. He allowed those two to score along with one of his own, but that would be the only real blemish on an otherwise solid long relief appearance (4 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 K, 0 BB).

With the score 9-5 in favor of Eau Claire, the Huskies answered back with two in the fifth and one in the seventh. Kyle Hubbuch went deep for the second time this season, driving in Jake Smith. Hubbuch would finish the day with three hits, two runs scored and five runs batted in. Again, the Huskies found themselves within striking distance, trailing 9-8 in the bottom of the seventh. Ricky Mitchell’s kiss of death on the day would be a leadoff solo shot from Tyrus Greene to make it a 10-8 Express lead. He would stay in to finish the inning.

Running out of time, the top of the eighth inning saw the Huskies score three runs to take their first lead since the first inning. Cody Dye was the new arm, relieving Chase Dreger (2 IP, 1 ER). Andrew Robinson got things started with this fourth base hit of the day, Isaac Collins walked, and Rob Emery extended his hitting streak with a single to right to load the bases. Jake Smith, who replaced Jake Pries when he was hit by a pitch in the left wrist earlier in the game, struck out swinging on a high Cody Dye fastball, but Kyle Hubbuch picked up his teammate by driving in two Huskies with a single to tie the ballgame at 10 runs apiece. Chase Strumpf stepped up to the plate with runners at the corners and a mighty hot bat. Strumpf promptly ripped a double into over the head of Zach Gilles in center and into the deepest part of the ballpark for a ground rule double that scored Emery to give the Huskies an 11-10 lead and move Hubbuch to third base. Gabe Knowles then grounded into a 4-3-6-2-5 double play to end the inning as Hubbuch got caught trying to score on the groundout to second baseman Luke Bandy.

Tre Brown relieved Mitchell in the eighth and gave up a leadoff solo home run to Matt Duce that tied the ballgame. He sat down the next three batters in order, notching a strikeout but making the Husky lead a short-lived one.
In the top of the ninth, the Huskies tried to at least make the possibility of a second Express walk-off on the season less likely. Jack Stronach was retired by now-reliever Kenny Ogg to start off the inning, but Augie Isaacson singled into right to give the Huskies some life. That, too, was short-lived, however, as he was caught in a rundown attempting to steal second with Robinson at the plate. Robinson put together a good enough at-bat to be able to reach base safely for the sixth time in the game with a walk, and Isaac Collins did the rest. With a full count and Dye a strike away from retiring the side, Colling roped a double into the right field corner. Right fielder Tyrus Greene made a herculean effort on it, and had the ball not popped out of his glove as he flung himself into the corner, he would have made a catch of the year candidate. But Collins was able to head to second, and more importantly, drive in Andrew Robinson, who scored his fourth run of the day.

This Husky lead, their third of the night, stayed that way as Kevin Folman came on and did what he does best en route to his ninth save of the year and the Huskies’ fourth win of the second half.

Duluth will send Nick Scheidler (1-0) to the bump on Tuesday in game one of a two-game home set against Bismarck, who they swept to open second-half play a week ago. The Larks will counter with Nick Boyles (1-2). First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.