Monday, July 23, 2007

The Northwoods Beat: Time to Sink or Swim

With only four weeks left in the 2007 season the playoff picture in the Northwoods League is starting to take shape. True, there's still time for a couple of teams to turn around their second half, but we're a good 2/3 of the way through the season and if you can't tell the teams who are stacked from the teams who hack, you're just not paying much attention.

In the South, it appears to be a duel between the Wisconsin Woodchucks and the Eau Claire
Express. At 11-3 and 10-3 respectively, they have a good jump on any other team that matters in the division. (Green Bay's right there, but after winning the first half of the season, they're already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.)

The North is a considerably closer division, yet the Duluth Huskies seem to be the most consistent winner. However, the basement dwelling Thunder Bay Bordercats are only 4 games back if that gives you any indication of how tight that race is. Oddly, the St. Cloud River Bats, the first half winner, are second to last with a record of 6-8.

If you don't care about the teams and you're just wondering what stars are shining the brightest in this hopeful league, this past week surely did not disappoint. On the 16th, Andy Marks, a lefty out of Kansas tossed seven innings of no-hit ball with 12 k's for the Duluth Huskies. The game was the first of a doubleheader in which the teams only play 7 innings in each game.

The very next night, Wisconsin Woodchuck, Notre Dame's Jeremy Barnes, proved that hitting is alive and well as he swung his lumber to the tune of a 4-for-6, 3 HR, 2B, 9 RBI, 4 R night. Barnes' night tied the team record for home runs in a game and set the team record for RBI in a single game.

Check back later this week as I relive one of the best days of my life...a trip to the Duck Pond in Madison. Late inning heroics, great beer, misdemeanors, and one spooky mascot.

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