Mallards beat Huskies to claim Northwoods League crownThe Madison Mallards defeated the Duluth Huskies 12-3 on Friday to win the Northwoods League championship series.
By: Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune
The Madison Mallards baseball team sang happy birthday to coach Donnie Scott on the bus ride to Duluth on Friday, and then gave him the best present the veteran coach could ask for later that night.
A Northwoods League championship.
Outfielder Joe McCarthy picked an opportune time to have the game of his life, going 5-for-6 with four runs and four RBIs to power the Mallards to a 12-3 victory over the Duluth Huskies in Game 2 of the Northwoods League championship series before 1,709 at Wade Stadium.
Madison swept the best-of-three series 2-0 after taking the opener 10-7 on Thursday.
After getting throttled 15-0 by Lakeshore on Monday in their playoff opener, the Mallards averaged more than 10 runs per game to win four straight en route to their second league title. They had 22 hits on Friday.
“We were like a train that just kept chugging along,” Scott said.
Duluth found out the hard way that nothing stops a train.
Madison scored all 12 of its runs in the first five innings to take the drama out of this one early.
After two runs in the first, the Mallards hit two home runs in the second inning, including a three-run homer by McCarthy, to chase Duluth starter Luke Vandermaten. To put that in perspective, the Huskies had a great year offensively but finished the season with no home runs at Wade Stadium. It was the fourth straight game the Mallards have had a three-run home run.
“I felt like I was really seeing the ball well,” McCarthy said. “We knew Duluth had a good solid team. We knew they weren’t going to make errors, they weren’t going to walk you, they weren’t going to win the game for you. We had to go out there and take it from them, and that’s what we did. We came out hitting right from the get go. Both teams had relied on comebacks, but that’s not what you want. You want to jump on them.”
Duluth was playing in its second league championship series but has never won the league title after getting swept 2-0 by Madison in 2004.
The Huskies (45-29) were making their fourth playoff appearance overall and first since 2007 after an improbable run that saw them win nine straight, including a playoff sweep of Waterloo, which set a Northwoods League record with 51 wins during the regular season. Duluth’s 45 wins were a team record.
“These guys battled day in and day out and I’m proud of them,” Huskies coach Daniel Hersey said. “They worked hard all summer and I wish each and every one of them the best of luck. They’re going to be very successful in life and have nothing to hang their heads about.”
Scott, who coached in professional baseball for 30 years, was in his first year with the Mallards. He turned 52 on Friday and was animated after the victory, leading the team in cheers while one player yelled, “We’re going to Disneyland.”
“They gave me a nice birthday present, I can tell you that,” Scott said. “I love being around these guys. They keep me young, no question about it. These guys worked their butts off all year long, they never gave up and that’s what I try to preach, and they did it. I love to teach the game, and that’s why I love this league.”
Hersey coached Scott’s son, David, at St. Leo (Fla.) University.
“You have to tip your hats to Madison,” Hersey said. “Donnie Scott does an awesome job. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him. He’s just a great baseball guy and even better person.”
Michael Suiter, one of six players who return to the Huskies from last summer, had three hits and two runs to lead Duluth. The Huskies had 11 hits but left nine guys on base. They hit into four double plays, including three by No. 3 hitter Trey Vavra, but ultimately it was the pitching in the early innings that faltered.
Suiter will be a junior at Kansas and said he wouldn’t hesitate another year with the Huskies. He appreciated the fans who stuck around and cheered them even after defeat.
“Even though we didn’t come out on top, I still have lots of memories with these guys,” Suiter said. “We had guys from all over the country, but we all got along. The fans here were great. I love Duluth. We really couldn’t ask for anything more.”