Baseball seasons are often described as a marathon, but this year has been a sprint as Minnesota town ball teams crammed as many games into July as possible ahead of the region playoffs. On Sunday, the Hutchinson Huskies crossed the finish third in the North Star League standings, beating the Litchfield Blues 9-1 in their final league game of the year.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak after the Huskies fell to Buffalo July 19 and Delano on Friday, giving Hutch an 8-2 final league record. Buffalo took first in the NSL with a perfect 10-0 record, while Delano also finished 8-2 but held the tiebreaker over the Huskies for second.
A top-seven seed means the Huskies have an automatic bid into the Region 12C Tournament, which starts next week and is played entirely in Maple Lake.
After a whirlwind season, Huskies manager Mike Kutter was pleased overall with Hutchinson’s third-place finish.
“I felt like we were a top-three team (at the start of the year) for sure,” Kutter said. “Delano’s obviously been really good. Buffalo, I don’t want to call them a surprise necessarily, but they’re a good team. For winning the league going 10-0, hats off to them.
“I like where we’re at,” Kutter added. “The top three or four are going to be tough.”
On Friday, the Huskies dropped a tight 8-6 contest against the Delano Athletics. Hutchinson jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first three innings thanks to some wild pitching and timely hits, but Delano’s bats came to life to drive in four runs in the sixth and seventh innings to pull ahead for good. The Huskies left six runners stranded in scoring position.
“Friday night at Delano, that felt like playoff baseball, the kind of game it was,” Kutter said. “I think that was good for us overall, but we’ve got to get ourselves ready to go.”
Sunday against the Blues was a different story as the Huskies pounded out 14 hits. Hutch started the game with a run in the first inning but then was held scoreless until the sixth when a three-run home run by Jayden Fleck broke the game open. The Huskies strung another five hits together in the eighth inning to tack on four more runs and seal the victory.
Fleck had a huge game, going 4-for-5 with three runs and three RBIs, and he was a triple short of the cycle.
“It was nice to see us come out and swing it well today. We had a lot of hits, and Fleck’s been swinging the bat really well,” Kutter said. “We’ve struggled a bit the past few games with scoring guys from second and third, but today we got it done, which was nice to see.”
The Huskies have one last tune-up when they host the Raymond Rockets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Veterans Memorial Field. They open the Region 12C Tournament at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, against Loretto, the No. 6 seed.
Hutchinson 9, Litchfield 1 (July 26)
Hutch ……. 100 004 040 – 9
Litchfield … 000 000 010 – 1
Batting: Jayden Fleck 4-5, 2B, HR, 3R, 3RBI; Cody Arlt 0-3; Mitchell Kurth 0-1; Matt Piechowski 3-5, 2B, R; Marcus Hahn 2-5, 1R, 2RBI; Tyler Schiller 1-5, 2RBI; Dan Van De Steeg 3-5, R, RBI; Lane Glaser 1-3, 2B, R; Adam Katzenmeyer 0-1; Brady Zackrison 0-4; Noah Corrow 0-4, 2R
Pitching: Jeremiah Van De Steeg (W) 7IP-0R-0ER-3H-1BB-3K; Jacob Kraft 2IP-1R-1ER-4H-0BB-1K
Delano 8, Hutchinson 6 (July 24)
Hutch …. 103 000 101 – 6
Delano … 000 004 40x – 8
Batting: Fleck 2-4, 2R; Cody Arlt 2-4, 2R; Matt Piechowski 1-5, R, 2B, RBI; Dan Van De Steeg 0-3; 2RBI; Lane Glaser 0-3; Tyler Schiller 1-3, RBI; Brady Zackrison 0-2, RBI; Adam Katzenmeyer 0-4; Noah Corrow 0-2; Mitch Reiner 1-1, 1R
Pitching: Dan VanDeSteeg 5.1IP-6H-4R-4ER-1BB-3K; Mitch Kurth (L) 1IP-3R-3ER-2H-2BB-1K; John Jennings 1.2IP-1R-1ER-4H-2BB-0K