Kalamazoo comes to life early to claim first title; Huskies fall to 0-4 in championship game
Evan Popalis, @evan_popalis
DULUTH, Minn — For the fourth time in team history, the Duluth Huskies played in the Northwoods League Championship Game as they took on the Kalamazoo Growlers. Both finalists claimed the first-half title for their respective divisions.
A hot start mixed with quality pitching for the Growlers was the winning formula as Kalamazoo downed Duluth 8-3 to secure its first Northwoods League Championship in team history.
Devin Dodson got the nod for Duluth for his second start of the postseason. He opened up the 2022 playoffs on the mound for the Huskies. The Growlers turned to Jerad Berkenpas, making his first start and appearance for the Great Lakes’ champions in the playoffs.
Kalamazoo got the scoring started in the top of the second. Casen Taggart smacked an RBI single to score Alex Calarco to give the visitors the edge in the early going. The Growlers weren’t finished in the frame. A two-out base knock from Ryan Dykstra scored two men to put Kalamazoo ahead, 3-0.
Dodson lasted two-plus innings in the make-or-break game for Duluth. He allowed three runs on four hits while gathering a pair of strikeouts and conceding a walk.
A throwing error by Kristian Campbell in the fourth accompanied by an Anthony Stephan RBI single propelled the Growlers to a 6-0 advantage.
Kalamazoo tacked on its seventh run of the contest as Dykstra came home safely on a hit from Banks Tolley.
Eddy Rosario found Duluth’s first run of the night with a two-out RBI base hit to score Jack Painter in the home sixth. Rosario picked up his third RBI of the postseason and his 36th overall on the summer season.
Berkenpas kept the Huskies quiet for the majority of his outing. The right-hander worked six innings of one-run ball. Berkenpas gave up four hits and racked up two strikeouts and a walk.
Following stretch time, Jeremy Keller recorded an infield single that scored Devin Hurdle to cut the deficit to five runs, 7-2. The Huskies could not prevail for any more runs in the frame, leaving two runners aboard.
Vince Bianchina made his imprint on the scoresheet with an RBI sacrifice fly in the ninth to add an insurance run.
Cam Frederick brought Hurdle home to score in the bottom of the ninth to put the ballgame at 8-3. That score would hold as Kalamazoo claimed the victory.
The Huskies turned to three arms out of the bullpen. Ryan Chmielewski, Tyler Moniz-Witten and Isaac Rohde all toed the rubber for Duluth in relief of Dodson.
Duluth is now 0-4 in the big game all-time. After finishing the regular season one game above .500, the Huskies record in total, including the playoffs, reads 37-34.
The Duluth Huskies are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Having completed its’ 28th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires, and front office staff, over 280 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (NYM), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and 2019/2021 Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and 2021 All-Star, MLB Gold Glove winner and 2019 Second Team All-MLB shortstop Marcus Semien (TEX). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. League games are viewable live at watchnwl.com. For more information, visit www.duluthhuskies.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Huskies as your favorite team.