Woodchucks and MoonDogs earn final playoff berths
The second and final playoff spot in each of the divisions came down to the last day, with Wisconsin picking up a win to stay ahead of Kenosha in the South while Mankato got some help from Willmar for the second North spot. The playoff matchups are now set, as Willmar squares off with the MoonDogs in the North and Lakeshore battles the Woodchucks in the South.
Duluth 7, St. Cloud 6 (10 innings)
After St. Cloud jumped ahead in the top of the 10th, Duluth rallied to tie it and won on a walkoff single from Alex Greene (West Florida). Alex Michaels (Cal Poly) reached base all five times he went up to the plate for the Huskies, who racked up 15 hits. The Rox also picked up 11, but the teams combined to leave 18 men on base before Greene's clutch single. Starter Dylan Barrow (Tampa) went six strong innings in a quality start while Kevin Folman (North Dakota St) allowed the go-ahead run, but retired three for his second win of the season as his teammates rallied behind him.
Wisconsin 9, Thunder Bay 7
Thunder Bay struck for three runs in the bottom of the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate, but Wisconsin hung on for a 9-7 win to take the second playoff spot in the Southern Division. Paul DeJong (Illinois St) tied the Northwoods League record with his 20th home run of the season- a two-run blast that proved to be the difference. Ryan Howard (Missouri) went 3-5 with four RBIs, and two other Woodchucks (including DeJong) drove in a pair as the 4-5-6 htiters in the order produced. Robb Paller (Columbia) drove in three runs and added a triple, but the BorderCats couldn't complete a comeback.
Eau Claire 7, Mankato 1
Eau Claire easily downed the MoonDogs, 7-1, but a win by Willmar over Waterloo put Mankato into the playoffs. The Express racked up 15 hits in a resounding win, keyed by home runs from Daniel Salters (Dallas Baptist) and Brian Mundell (Cal Poly). Salters drove in three runs on a three hit night while six different Eau Claire pitchers held the MoonDogs to a lone run. Middle reliever Miles Nablo (Century College) threw a scoreless fifth inning for the win.
Willmar 5, Waterloo 0
The first half champions, Willmar, knocked out Waterloo and ended their season with a 5-1 win. The Bucks had a shot at passing Mankato, who had lost earlier in the day, but they were held to just one run on four hit. It came in the top of the ninth, but it was too little, too late as the Stingers had a pair of two-run innings. Nick Rivera (FGCU) hit a pair of RBI doubles and drove in three while Joe Zorn (Bethel) turned in three shutout innings of work in relief with four strikeouts in just his fifth appearnce.
Kenosha 8, Battle Creek 2
Kenosha racked up eight runs on 11 hits, but couldn't advance into the playoffs as Wisconsin also won. The Kingfish got a stellar start from Callahan Brown (UConn) and three RBIs from Steven Sensley (LSU-Enice) to pick up the win. Brown went six innings in a quality start, allowing just two runs- only one earned- while allowing just five hits and issuing a lone walk. Brandon Van Horn (Dallas Baptist) hit a solo home run in the loss for the Bombers.
Alexandria 9, Rochester 5
Ricky Sanchez (Notre Dame) enjoyed a monster final game of the season to carry Alexandria to a 9-5 win, who used a seven-run fourth to power them to a win. Sanchez hit a pair of home runs- a solo shot in the second and a grand slam in the fourth to finish with five RBIs. Teammate Lukas Hermanson (Texas-Corpus Christi) added a double and two RBIs, while Ryan Froom (South Dakota St) went three shutout innings and struck out three for his first save of the season.
Green Bay 1, Wisconsin Rapids 0
After a combined 8 1/2 shutout innings between Green Bay and Wisconsin Rapids, Matthew De La Rosa (Lenoir-Rhyne) drew a bases-loaded walk and the Bullfrogs walked off with the win. Rafters reliever Justin Schander (Phoenix Col) put runners on first and second, and teammate Carlos Rosales (Valley City St) loaded them before issuing the game-ending wak. The teams combined for just 10 total hits as Rafters starter Jason Freeman (Texas A&M) was dominant in a no-decision. Freeman allowed just two hits over eight scoreless innings as he fanned five.
Madison 10, Kalamazoo 8
The defending champion Mallards closed out their season with a 10-8 win, despite being out-hit 14-12. Madison trailed 8-7 entering the ninth, but they struck for three runs off of John Schreiber (Northwestern Ohio) to jump ahead and win. Jesse Puscheck (Cansius) drove in three runs for the Growlers, but Alex Bacon (North Florida) equaled him with three RBIs and added his 5th home run of the season. Tony Butler (Virginia) added a pair of RBIs and hits for the Mallards in the win.
Lakeshore 4, La Crosse 3
Lakeshore closed out their season with a win, finished with 50 wins- one shy of the Northwoods League record, set last summer by the Waterloo Bucks. The Chinooks trailed through six, 3-1, but they struck for three runs in the seventh to go on and win 4-3. After Lakeshore's starter went just four innings, Jakob Kounkel (Concordia-St. Paul) went four shutout innings in relief and teammate Kyle Wood (Purdue) struck out two in the ninth for his first save of the season. Ryan Krill (Michigan St) and Brant Valach (Eastern Illinois) combined for all four Chinooks runs as they both drove in two.
Monday's Schedule (Game 1):
North- No. 1 Willmar at No. 2 Mankato, 7:05 p.m.
South- No. 1 Lakeshore at No. 2 Wisconsin, 7:05 p.m.