Duluth put up 13 runs on Bismarck to reach the Northwoods League North Division championship game. And, they brought those hot bats to Bill Taunton Stadium Tuesday to secure a spot in the league championship series.
Teeing off on Willmar's pitchers to the tune of 18 hits, the third-seeded Huskies clinched the North Division with a 17-7 victory against the top-seeded Stingers.
Scoreless through two innings and without a hit, Shea Kramer broke the drought for Willmar with a one-out triple. Davis Elliot followed that with an RBI single that gave the Stingers a 1-0 edge.
In the fifth, things got testy between the two teams. With Julian Escobedo caught in a pickle, Willmar got the out when pitcher Sam Gardner got the tag as Escobedo ran into the Stingers' starter. The two benches cleared, complete with shoves and jaw-jacking that saw Escobedo and a Husky bench player, along with the Stingers' Joey Ortiz, ejected from the game.
The kerfuffle seemed to spark something in Duluth's offense when the next batter, Nicholas Sogard tied the game with an RBI single.
From there, Duluth scored 17 straight runs, with five in the sixth, three in the seventh, five in the eighth and three in the ninth. Michael McCann, the Huskies' number nine hitter went 3-for-4 with six RBIs and a pair of runs scored. General McArthur (2-for-6) and Tony Monroy (3-for-6) both drove in four runs. Monroy scored three times while McArthur crossed home twice. Sean Watkins had four runs in the victory.
Duluth's offense was firing on all cylinders. Meanwhile, Willmar's offense sputtered. After connecting with four hits in the third inning, the Stingers got just one hit in the next five frames with an Eric Yang single to lead off the seventh. Andrew Stout kept the Stingers' bats at bay, picking up the division-clinching win with seven strikeouts in seven innings of work. He allowed just one run on five hits and two walks.
With Duluth's victory well in hand, Willmar closed out the year on a high note with a six-run bottom of the ninth thanks to a Tyler Reichenborn RBI single, a Yang run on an error, a Matt Rudick RBI single, bases-loaded walks for Sebastian Samuels and Chad Musser and a Rudick run on a grounder.
Gardner was hit with the loss with four runs, eight hits and two walks allowed with four strikeouts in 5-1/3 innings.
Duluth will now enter the best-of-three Summer Collegiate World Series with Fond du Lac for the Northwoods League championship. The series will start Wednesday in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
Reaching the second round of the Northwoods League playoffs for the first time in team history, Willmar ends the 2018 season with a 49-25 record.
Duluth 17, Willmar 7
Duluth 000 015 353-17 18 0
Willmar 001 000 006-7 8 1
Hitting - Duluth: Augie Isaacson 1-4 r, Nicholas Sogard 2-5 rbi, Carlos Moseley 1-5, Chris Gilbody 2-6 r, Reed Hjelle 1-1 r, Sean Watkins 0-1 r-4, General McArthur 2-6 r-2 rbi-4, Tony Monroy 3-6 r-3 rbi-4, Michael McCann 3-4 r-2 rbi-6, Hunter Bigge 2-4 r-3, Julian Escobedo 1-2 ... Willmar: Shea Kramer 1-3 r-2, Joey Ortiz 1-2, Nic Hernandez 1-4, Davis Elliot 1-4 r rbi-2, Matt Rudick 1-3 r rbi, Sebastian Samuels 0-1 rbi, Chad Musser 0-0 rbi, Carter Schmidt 0-1 rbi, John Trousdale 1-5 r, Eric Yang 1-4 r, Tyler Reichenborn 1-4 r rbi.
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Duluth: Andrew Stout (W) 7-5-1-1-2-7, Kieran Shaw 1-0-0-0-1-1, Kyle Mora 0.0-3-6-5-3-0, Sean Watkins 1.0-0-0-0-0-1 ... Willmar: Sam Gardner (L) 5.1-8-2-2-2-4, Bryant Claunch 0.0-2-1-1-0-0, Jayson Newman 0.2-0-0-0-2-2, Corey Binger 1.1-4-4-2-1-1, Noah Fluman 0.2-1-2-0-1-0, Michael Bohlke 1-3-3-3-1-2