Duluth Warriors Capture Planetary Extreme Championship

Updated: April 6, 2018

November 13th, 2026
Tricia Takanawa

After falling behind 3-1 in the championship series against the Kentucky Thoroughbreds the Duluth Warriors backs were up against the proverbial wall. The drama that had been unfolding throughout the playoffs unbeknownst to the league was handled swiftly by team management. They knew they needed a change and change is what happened. Starting pitcher Luis ‘Chief’ Nieves had contract issues all season long. His demands per GM Mark Kierstead “Laughable and out of this world.” In dramatic fashion, Nieves was booted from the team after a soup throwing incident. It happened to be just what the team needed. As Nieves was not helping the team at all. Duluth hoped that changed would spur a comeback.

Game 1 Loss 7-2

Duluth gets trampled for 7 runs in the 6th inning and Kentucky never looked back. Ruben Hernadez was lit up and yanked soon after giving up 4 earned runs. This loss looked like the series was going to be short and bittersweet for the Warriors. Kentucky starting pitcher Shoichi Shimizu went 6 with 2 ER, 6Ks, and 1 BB. He was amazing all game and made it tough for Duluth to get anything going.

Game 2 Loss 4-2

Duluth had a closer game but still fell short as Kentucky starter Ramón Téllez tossed a hell of a game. 2 ER, 6Ks, 1BB out of 108 pitches. He didn’t play it safe and when the time came they put in Closer Alfredo ‘R’ Aranda who had led the league in saves the past 2 seasons, as well as breaking the league record for saves in a year with 56. Yes, 56, and Duluth doesn’t want to face this guy at all. 12 pitches later and 2Ks and Duluth were down another game.

Game 3 Loss 3-1

Duluth played another close game but could only amass 3 meager hits…Duluth starter Bartolo Esquivel did not pitch a bad game at all but the lineup failed him miserably. It was Closer Aranda who would seal the fate once again for Duluth. A close game lost by a lineup who has grown cold for Duluth. The same line up that finally got past the Shin Seiki Evas in 7 and Aurora Borealis in 6 games. The lineup seemed to have gotten so cold the bats were heavy and the baseballs they were trying to hit looked like golf balls.

Notes from first three games:

Duluth 20 hits = 5 runs, Duluth Pitching 19Ks = 3 losses

Kentucky 19 hits =14 runs, Kentucky Pitching 30Ks = Better hitting, Better Pitching, = 3 Wins (2 saves)

Game 4 Won 5-1

Duluth went with starter Ed “Peppers” Emery who had been doing well in the playoffs so far.  He pitched a solid game allowing just 4 hits and 1 run along with 6Ks. This game was much more than that for Emery as he was the replacement for Nieves when he was removed from the team. Emery knew he had to pitch a good game. Kentucky, on the other hand, pitched just as well but the relievers lost it for them. Starter  Eric Elliott had 2 hits, 1 run, 6ks  over 5 innings, a tad better than Emery However, Fransisco “CL” Sútrez walked 4, allowed 3 runs in just 1.2 innings,  devastating the Kentucky lineup who were hoping to end the series.

Game 5 Won 3-1

Still down Duluth seems like they are fighting a losing battle. Again good pitching and hitting won them another game to pull closer to not just stay alive but win it all. The attitude because of this win pushed the player to not think about losing it but to win it all. Rubén ‘Hollywood’ Hernández was the starter for this game and pitched a gem. 6 hits, 1 run, 6Ks  over 6 innings was a great start and reliever Kazuhiko ‘Dusty’ Nishiyama added another 5 Ks over 2 innings shutting down any hopes Kentucky had of winning this game. 2B Harley Schneider added a 3 run blast to push Duluth towards a spectacular win. Kentucky management might have messed up by removing starter Shoichi Shimizu just after 4 innings for only giving up 3 runs. He lead the team in ERA during the regular season and might have recovered.

Game 6 Won 12-3

Kentucky was looking forward to having Duluth back on home soil. To the stunned fans and even Duluth GM Mark Kierstead. No one would have thought it would be a blowout. Starting pitcher Julián ‘Rainmaker’ Thomas needed to pitch like his life depended on it. That is what baseball is about. Playing as hard as you can even with a huge lead. 7 Ks, 3 runs, and 5 hits would normally be a loss to a team like Kentucky. But the lineup blew up the scoreboard with 5 runs in the first inning alone. Kentucky starter Ramón Téllez had the opposite of his masterpiece in game 2 . 9 hits, 8 runs, and 2 walks before he was pulled. Fransisco “CL” Sútrez was put in as a replacement and got tagged right from the start. 4 hits, 4 runs, 1 HR. Kentucky yanked him just after 1.2 innings again. This could be the motivational turn that pushed the series further from Kentucky and Duluth would have 99% of the hype in game 7.

Game 7 Won 7-6 (11 innings)

Emery VS Camacho was the headline.

Both were pulled after 5 innings as hey gave up run after run, but the game was still neck and neck. Kentucky sprinkled Emery with runs over 5 innings where Camacho lost his mojo and gave up 5 in the 5th innings alone. The surprise tactic that Duluth used was bringing in Rubén ‘Hollywood’ Hernández as a relief pitcher. Duluth bullpen had struggled in the playoffs and GM Kierstead made this move personally before the game. He would hold his own for a few innings giving up just 1 run. The game was still in the hands of either team. It was going to come down closer José ‘Bullfrog’ Hernández who had 3 Wins, 5 saves, and a 0.60 ERA in the postseason so far. He would be facing closer Alfredo ‘R’ Aranda league leader and record-breaking in saves with 56. His playoff stats were just as good in some respect. 2 wins, 1 loss, 6 saves and an incredible 28 Ks in just 17 innings pitched. This is what Duluth and many teams would fear. Aranda is a powerhouse as a closer. For the next 3 innings, Hernández was flawless. 2Ks, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 balls on base on 37 pitches. Aranda would strike out 4 while giving up 2 hits and a single that drove in the winning run for Duluth. Kentucky played an amazing series. They have a heck of a team that will be playoff bound for many seasons to come.  Duluth coming back from 3-0 is very special and amazing. When Mark Kierstead came back he made the team his, traded away players that he saw would be better on other teams and built his own Duluth roster. It has been a wonderful 2026 season with or without a championship, but always better with one.

Notes from final 4 games:

Duluth 42 hits = 27 runs, Duluth Pitching 31Ks

Kentucky 30 hits =11 runs, Kentucky Pitching 38Ks

Duluth would like to thank Kentucky for a great series and the other team who fought tooth and nail throughout the playoffs. This has been a wonderful season for all teams.