While the La Crosse Loggers may not be watching the Northwoods League scoreboard each night, they are certainly crunching numbers.
With nine days remaining in the regular season, La Crosse entered Thursday night’s game with Thunder Bay 4½ games back of Mankato with 10 games left in the second-half race for the Northwoods League’s North Division title.
La Crosse (13-14 second half, 27-34 overall), which stumbled against Bismarck Tuesday night before having Wednesday off, knows what it must do. They understand the challenges ahead of them, but still like their chances, manager Brian Lewis said before Thursday night’s game.
“We played so well for a really good stretch of games there that to me it was just one of those days,” Lewis said of Tuesday night’s 11-8 loss to Bismarck at Copeland Park. “It was one of those fluky games where no matter who we put on the mound couldn’t control the strike zone. All of a sudden guys that make every play are making errors. It just seemed like one of those days where it just wasn’t our day.”
Before the Tuesday night setback, La Crosse was arguably playing its best baseball of the season, having won four in a row and eight of their past nine games while scoring 81 runs during that stretch. The Loggers took a quick 4-0 lead in the first two innings and appeared poised for another victory, but then the wheels fell off. The pitching staff couldn’t find the strike zone, walking 10 Larks through the first five innings — 12 total in the game — while the defense committed a season-high four errors.
Considering how well the team had been playing it was a tough one to swallow. And it made the team’s mission of earning a postseason spot even more difficult.
“We know there’s not a lot of room for error when it comes to making the playoffs,” Lewis said. “We feel we are in pretty good shape with our roster we still got a lot of our horses around. We have a lot of numbers on the pitching staff we still got 15 arms here on the roster. It will come down to going out there and getting it done every day.”
Luke Rasmussen (ankle injury), Ryan Mantle (mandatory move-in date for Creighton), and Derik Beauprez (family illness) have all left since Tuesday night’s game. Despite some key losses to the lineup, the Loggers do have a favorable schedule featuring matchups against Thunder Bay and Bismarck, along with St. Cloud, which has struggled in the second half.
“I don’t think the schedule is necessarily easy,” Lewis said. “I didn’t ever think a game in this league is an easy game to win, but we are fortunate in the regards that we do play some teams with similar records to us down the stretch here. So it kind of lines up for us in that regard.”