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Amateur baseball: Ahoy! Pirates fighting for the top as field sits under water

WINDOM -- They play basketball on donkeys. So why not play a baseball game in boats?

The idea was suggested Monday to Windom Pirates player-coach Nick Kulseth as a unique fundraising tool. Windom’s beautiful Island Park baseball complex next to the Des Moines River is mostly under water and will remain unplayable throughout the remainder of the summer season.

Hence, the boating idea.

Kulseth chuckled at the concept, but he agreed that such a game might draw well.

“Might have a few fish swimming out there, though,” he said.

The Pirates are enjoying another solid season, notwithstanding their field issues. They hold a 10-6 season record, which places them near the top of the First Nite League. Fortunately, they can still host a game or two at Lincoln Wacker Field on the east side of Windom. But that field doesn’t have lights. For night games, they must play every game on the road.

That means that tonight’s 7:30 p.m. contest against the Lakefield Horned Frogs, which was scheduled to be played in Windom, will instead be moved to Lakefield -- where boats are unnecessary. Windom, then, must give up the home field advantage against a team that is also enjoying a fine year.

Currently, Lakefield sits atop the First Nite League standings with an 11-5 record. Fairmont is 10-5, Windom 10-6, Jackson 8-8, Heron Lake 6-9, Martin County 6-11 and Worthington 5-8.

In the Gopher League, the Luverne Redbirds and Hadley Buttermakers are battling it out for first place, with Luverne 12-3 and Hadley 12-4. The Milroy Irish are 10-5, Pipestone 10-6, Adrian 5-12, Ruthton 2-13 and Tracy 2-14.

“Right now we’re a game behind them,” Kulseth remarked about the Horned Frogs, an opponent maintaining a winning pace stocked with several players who’ve stayed teammates for many years.

“They’re a good, scrappy ball team. They mesh well,” Kulseth said.

As for the Pirates, a deep pitching staff has kept them afloat. Collin Lovell is the ace, but the team can also win with high school all-star Luke Gilbertson along with Ross Ackerman, Jack Mellstrom and Kobe Lovell.

Gilbertson, Collin Lovell, Devin Nielsen and Danny Kneeland have been hitting the ball well, though Kulseth says the squad has been “hit or miss” with the bats for most of the year. There are talented defenders, but the team is still trying to lock down third base without one of its best players, Sam Huska, who was lost to injury a little over a week ago.

“Since he’s been absent, we’ve had 20-some hits in two games. So our bats are still there,” Kulseth said.

It is difficult to tell how the loss of Island Park is affecting the Pirates. The Island Park baseball field is a southwest Minnesota gem under normal conditions -- immaculately manicured, with impressive seating and an excellent press box area, and with a well-stocked snack shack and high-end scoreboard. When it flooded, it looked like a lake.

It isn’t the first time the field succumbed to water, but Kulseth said it’s one of the worst examples of it.

“Even when it flooded before, I don’t think it was this bad,” he said. “It’s crazy the amount of water down there, and the amount of time it will take to get it right again. … It doesn’t feel good that we won’t be playing there the rest of this year. But it’s a part of life. You gotta just move on.”

The rapid rise of the Des Moines River essentially washed out all of Island Park, itself, including the town’s City of Windom Pool. Last weekend, the municipal pool in Lakefield began to honor Windom pool season passes. The Windom Country Club also shut down due to flooding, forcing the postponement of the Toro Member-Guest Tournament. The Jackson Golf Club announced it would offer half-price green fees and cart rentals to Windom Country Club members until further notice.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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