Thursday, August 19, 2010

Small town ball at its finest, Dukes top Hawks in Dundas

As a baseball enthusiast, I’ve been to myriad stadiums both professional and amateur, but it's hard to top what the Dundas Dukes have just south of Northfield, Minnesota.

Sure, the $425 million stadiums, such as Target Field, are breathtaking and there will never be better baseball in Minnesota to watch than the Twins. But as far as amateur baseball goes, the town that tops out at a hair over 1,000 people produces one of the best atmospheres for baseball.

Dundas’ Memorial Park, host of the Dukes, welcomed in the Hastings Hawks Monday night for the Section 1B championship. Ace pitcher Charlie Ruud was on the mound for the Dukes and he was dealing.

The ex-Saint Paul Saints hurler was inches short of firing a no-hitter in leading Dundas to a 3-0 defeat of the Hawks.

Ruud struck out 13 Hawks batters and faced one more than the minimum while earning the shutout win. The game was a true pitchers duel as Ruud’s counterpart - Hastings’ David Vogelgesang - also went the distance.

Vogelgesang allowed just four hits to Dundas, but took the loss as the Dukes were able to put up three runs against him while his Hawks offense could barely touch Ruud.

Dundas’ filthy righthander zipped through Hastings lineup virtually the entire game. Ruud did not walk a batter, retiring the first 15 Hawks hitters before Jordy Horsch led off the top of the sixth inning.

Horsch hit a relatively routine ball to Dukes shortstop Josh Maus, but Maus could not come up with it and Horsch was able to reach first base safely.

From there, Ruud retired the following nine Hastings batters to keep his night hit-free. However, in the the top of the ninth, Hawks third baseman Sean Dube sent a medium-speed liner to shallow center and Carson Jones’ diving attempt at a catch came up a mere inch or two short.

Offensively, Dundas’ Tyler Jones hit a clutch two-out single to left in the third inning and a sacrifice fly in the fifth to drive in all three Dukes runs.

It was a wonderful night as I was able to meet up with an ex-baseball teammate, a current softball teammate - Jeremiah Leiviska and Jeff Brisbois, both currently relief pitchers for the Dukes - as well as Dundas public announcer Ira Carlson and a handful of Dukes die-hards.

Moreover, the atmosphere at Dundas’ Memorial Park was outstanding. From the hosts of home fans decked out in Dukes orange to Carlson’s crisp voice accompanied with personalized entrance music for each Dundas batter to several other terrific sights and sounds of this small town’s cozy baseball venue, the alluring aura was unavoidable.

As for the quality of baseball? Dundas has a high-caliber crop of players and is arguably as good as any amateur baseball team in the state.

Led by ex-St. Paul Saints Ruud (12-2, 1.07 ERA) and Todd Mathieson (.354 BA offensively, 5-1 with a 1.69 ERA pitching), former Los Angeles Dodgers farmhand Mike Ludwig (.370 BA, 19 doubles, 55 RBI) and St. Olaf senior Carson Jones (.444 BA, 44 runs), expect the Dukes to be a very tough out at this year’s Class B State Tournament.

Dundas will take its 38-11 overall record to Willmar for its first game of the State Tournament as the Dukes battle the Bemidji Mudcats (22-18) this Saturday at 11:00 a.m.

Notable individual efforts:
Dundas Dukes
~ Charlie Ruud: CG, W, 9 IP, 1 H, 0 Rs, 13 Ks, 0 BBs
~ Tyler Jones: 1-for-3, Sac Fly, 3 RBI
~ Brandon Roloff: 1-for-3, 2B, HBP, 2 Rs

Hastings Hawks
~ David Vogelgesang: CG, 8 IP, 4 Hs, 3 ERs, 5 Ks, 2 BBs

**Note: I went to this game as a fan and was able to absorb Memorial Park's wonderful atmosphere while spending some time in the press box meeting Ira Carlson and also some time greeting Jeremiah "J.J." Leiviska and some of the Dundas Dukes faithful near the Dukes dugout. I also kept score (with some assistance from Carlson), took some photographs throughout the night, and met with Dukes pitcher Charlie Ruud after the game. The photos featured in this article are - from top to bottom - a panoramic view of Memorial Field from the press box, Charlie Ruud (post-game), Ira Carlson announcing. Also, here (below) are some other photos from Monday night (including a picture of Northfield's KYMN radio team Tim Freeland (left) and Jeff Johnson (center), alongside Carlson in the press box):

1 comment:

Jeremiah said...

Very good article.