Jake Wendland swing

Hutchinson slugger Jake Wendland takes a swing during a game earlier this season. Wendland had a big game against Maple Lake last week, including three RBIs, two runs scored and a home run to help the Huskies win.

The Hutchinson Huskies are back on top of the North Star League standings.

For the first time since 2017, the Huskies are NSL champions after winning their final three games of the regular season this past week. Those victories capped off a nine-game winning streak through the month of July, and they needed every one of those wins to take the league title with a 16-4 NSL record, 24-6 overall.

Now as they look ahead to the Region 12C playoffs, Mike Kutter, manager of the No. 1-seeded Huskies, believes the team is playing its best baseball at the right time.

“I think we’ve got a good pitching rotation going. I think the big thing is our bats have come alive and we’ve had better at-bats through games,” Kutter said. “And the clutch hitting has been there, and that’s something we struggled with earlier in the season. That’s been a huge factor for us, just being able to drive guys in during big moments and being consistent with that.”

Hutchinson needed its bats this past week to outscore Maple Lake 9-6, Delano 11-9, and Loretto 11-9. Jake Wendland was 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs against Maple Lake, Matt Piechowski went 4-for-6 with two RBIs against Delano, and Tyler Schiller was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a home run against Loretto, just to name a few of the highlights.

“We had a couple games this week where we needed every one of those hits and every one of those runs,” Kutter said. “We knew we might have games where we would get in a slugfest with Delano and Loretto, because both those teams can hit. We had to hang on, but that’s OK. That’s prepping us for playoffs, because there aren’t going to be any easy games from here on out.”

The Huskies won’t know who their first opponent in the region tournament is until after this weekend, as Maple Plain, Cokato, Dassel-Cokato and Montrose will battle for the No. 8 seed. Hutchinson will face one of those teams at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5, in the first round. Until then, Kutter said the Huskies will practice and may add one more game to their schedule, but mostly they’ll rest and prepare for what they hope is a long playoff run.

“We’ve had some guys that have played a ton, and it’s OK to take a few days off and recoup a little bit,” he said. “We’ve been in this boat before and we know what we need to do.”