Having been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs earlier in the week, the La Crosse Loggers could have encountered a less-than-stellar crowd Friday night.
That wasn’t the case, however, as La Crosse played its final home game in front of 4,017 fans at Copeland Park. While the Loggers entered the game against Waterloo with a 16-18 second-half mark and 30-38 overall record, attendance has still been strong for the 15-year-old franchise. La Crosse drew 99,070 fans, or an average of 2,752 through 36 home games this season.
Madison, once again, leads the Northwoods League in attendance, drawing 201,146 fans over 32 home games, an average of 6,286.
It has been a season of ups and downs for La Crosse, which wraps up its season this weekend with a two-game road trip to Bismarck. La Crosse stumbled out of the gate, going 2-9 in its first 11 games as half of the roster was still playing in the NCAA postseason tournament. La Crosse showed signs of making a full recovery, but struggled with injuries and establishing consistent play with an ever-changing lineup.
“Northwoods League is always a grind,” Loggers’ second-year manager Brian Lewis said. “We started off with a lot of guys not here because their universities advanced, which we are used to that. We had a lot of guys come in late. We had a lot of injuries in the middle of the season. Long story short, we felt like we never really had our ideal lineup except for maybe a two- or three-week stretch there. You just never know what’s going to happen.”
A slow start and a limited lineup ultimately doomed the Loggers. La Crosse had 13 full-contract players miss the first couple weeks of the season as their college teams played deep into the postseason. La Crosse filled its roster with temporary or 10-day contract players, but three of those players suffered injuries. La Crosse did bounce back, going 28-27 after the first 11 games.
While the season didn’t turn out as hoped in terms of wins and losses, the Loggers are committed to pursuing players from perennial collegiate powerhouses, according the Chris Goodell, the only general manager the team has ever had.
“I don’t think anyone can project who is going to be in the College World Series at this point,” Goodell said. “There’s always perennial powers and favorites, but there are so many things that change over the course of the season. We have never shied away from getting players from big schools because we like to work with them. Traditionally, we find ways to hover around .500 in the first stretch of the season. We aren’t going to shy away from quality programs. They are quality programs for a reason.”
The Loggers injuries were to key players as Luke Rasmussen (ankle), outfielder Mitchell Morimoto (back), Nicholas Kahle (abdomen), Cameron Cannon (wrist), and Korey Lee (thumb), all guys who were mainstays in the lineup and having productive seasons before injuries cut their seasons short.
“I thought we did the best that we could,” Lewis said. “At the end of the day it was just one of those seasons where you just never really knew what was going to happen day-to-day or more like week-to-week. You just never knew who was going to be healthy what guys were coming in and when guys were going home. And it kind of made it a juggling act sometimes.”