I'm tardy. I know. The Northwoods League baseball season officially came to an end on Friday night, August 17th. I had every intention of jumping online and giving everyone the update the next day...but I just couldn't. Now, I realize I should do it before it's too late but by writing this blog entry, I'm admitting that my season is gone. Don't get me wrong. I'm a major league fan as well and I love seeing the Twins put together a late season push. But Northwoods baseball is summer.
To be honest, it looked like the playoff scenario might be a bit lopsided. The two first half division winners finished the second half of the season in 4th (Green Bay) and 7th (St. Cloud) in their respective divisions. How could they hold up against two teams who were still rolling? The St. Cloud River Bats were not only going into the playoffs with a 14-18 second half record, they were still in a state of shock. On August 3rd, late season addition, pitcher Ritchie Gargel was found badly injured after a swimming accident. Later that week, the lefty from Temple University passed away.
Despite the Gargel tragedy, St. Cloud rolled over Duluth in their divisional match up, winning the best of 3 game set in just 2 games. Eau Claire won a see-saw battle with Green Bay in the third game. The final series was a showdown between the upstart Eau Claire Express, looking for their first championship in only their 3rd season in existence and the St. Cloud River Bats.
It only took two games. St. Cloud, perhaps rallying together after the death of Gargel, eliminated Eau Claire and claimed their third Northwoods League Championship. From a great first half to a shaky second half and the unfortunate tragedy of Richie Gargel...to top of the heap. My hat's off to St. Cloud and their field manager, Tony Arnerich.
Another season down, but it doesn't really end there. Now it's time to start recruiting for next year!