The first half of the Northwoods League baseball season has come to a close and two teams have secured their places in the playoffs. The NW League crowns first half winners, giving them a post-season berth, and then lets the other teams duke it out for the second half. This season, the first half ends with a taste of the old and the new. The St. Cloud Riverbats, a franchise in it's 11th season and two time league champion, narrowly overcame the Duluth Huskies to come out on top in the North Division. The Green Bay Bullfrogs, a first-year expansion franchise, surprised everyone with a very strong first half and the South Division title. During their first half run the Bullfrogs put together a 15-game winning streak.
This Wednesday the league will celebrates its rising stars in the 13th Northwoods League All-Star Game at Franklin Rogers Park in Mankato, MN. The two-day event includes an All-Star banquet on Tuesday night with a special appearance by Twins GM, Terry Ryan as well as a home run derby on Wednesday before the game. Last year's event in La Crosse, WI was a very close game with a lot of entertaining surprises like an impromptu dance-off between the competing dugouts.
The La Crosse Loggers (2nd place in the South) have the most players in this years All-Star game with seven representatives. Darian Ruf (Wisconsin Woodchucks), Eric Thames (La Crosse Loggers) have been two of the league's most consistent hitters while Danny Meier (Green Bay) was the first half's premier slugger with 6 home runs and 24 rbi. St. Cloud's Buddy Baumann stands out among pitchers with 5 wins (tied for 1st) and 40 strikeouts (tied for 4th).
The Northwoods League is a chance for elite collegiate players to gain exposure as well as wood bat experience during their summer. As the season progresses we'll likely see the hitting start to catch up with the pitching.