After starting the second half of the Northwoods League season with a 4-8 record, the La Crosse Loggers were in need of a reset.
Loggers’ manager Brian Lewis is hopeful the three-day all-star break was the jolt the team needed to handle its ensuing demanding schedule and climb back into relevance in the North Division. Entering Thursday night’s game with the Eau Claire Express, La Crosse was tied for last place and was 18-28 overall.
“You can tell, just being out there today in batting practice,” Lewis said, “(that) they are more relaxed. You can tell they’re refreshed, and enjoying themselves again.”
Lewis said a number of players did some fun things over the three-day break. A few players drove to Minneapolis and caught a Minnesota Twins game, while others canoed in the river, while yet another group took a trip to Wisconsin Dells.
“They were able to get out and do some fun things, and actually have a few days of summer like normal kids do,” Lewis said.
The Loggers are gearing up for a challenging road trip following their games against the Express, with a doubleheader in Duluth on Monday, and a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday with the Rochester Honkers. Wednesday’s twin bill features a noon game at Mayo Field in Rochester, then a 7 p.m. nightcap at Copeland Park. After playing two doubleheaders in three days, the Loggers will then board a bus for Thunder Bay, Ontario.
^pEau Claire Express manager Dale Varsho said the Northwoods League’s day-night doubleheader tradition has been happening since he joined the team in 2005. Playing two games in two different cities challenges the players and the coaches.
^pLewis said he’s just grateful the Loggers are playing the Honkers for the day-night doubleheader, with the 75-mile commute to Rochester being reasonable. Last year the Loggers played the Waterloo Bucks in a day-night doublehader, and in 2015 it was against Madison.
“In baseball you try to keep everything the same,” Lewis said. “Everything is regiment and on a schedule, and you try to not get it into their heads that this (next stretch of games) is going to be a tough grind.”
Lewis said the day-night doubleheader and significant travel can affect pitchers but not usually position players, and that the Logger players are already optimistic about the busy week of travel because they love playing in Canada, and appreciate the Thunder Bay facilities, which have team lodging on a college campus.
LEFTY STARTS:^p Ryan Anderson got the nod for the fourth time this season on Thursday night’s game, which was not completed as of Tribune press time. Anderson, a left-handed freshman from Nevada, began the season in the bullpen but has been in the rotation for the past few weeks. Lewis used the three-day break to shuffle the pitching rotation and start Anderson, preferring a lefty matchup against Eau Claire. Another lefty, Jason Seever, will get the nod against the Express today.
KAHLE OUT:^p Nicholas Kahle, the Loggers No. 2 catcher, is done for the summer after being stricken with an abdominal injury that will require a procedure to repair. Kahle flew back to the University of Washington Thursday night to in order to be treated by its sports medical staff.
Kahle’s departure will bump Jorge Guiterrez to the No. 2 catcher. Guiterrez, who has shown considerable skill behind the plate, has mostly played in the middle infield this season. He will fill in whenever La Crosse’s top catcher, Korey Lee, is not in the lineup.
Lee’s dependability behind the dish and at the plate have been important for the Loggers, which made it worrisome Thursday night when Lee left the game in the fourth inning after taking two hard foul-tips to the glove in the early innings.