By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Jun 08, 2008 at 5:08 AM

If the Brewers' struggles in May have you looking for an alternative baseball fix, try the Northwoods League.

Action started this weekend in the NWL, a summer college baseball league which features five teams in Wisconsin. The state NWL teams include:

Eau Claire Express -- This team is in its third season. The Express won a franchise record 44 games last season and made it to the finals of the NWL championship series, only to lose to champion St. Cloud.

Adam Worthington, a University of Chicago-Illinois player, leads returning pitchers. He was 6-3 with a 2.00 ERA for the Express last season. Catcher Dominic Piazza of Yavapai Community College leads returning position players.

The Express plays in Carson Park, which has a 68-year history. Henry Aaron and several other Milwaukee Braves got their start there, when Eau Claire has a minor league club affiliated with the Braves.

Green Bay Bullfrogs -- The Bullfrogs had an impressive inaugural season in the NWL, winning the first half championship in the South Division.

Third baseman Kurt Yacko of Chapman College -- a NWL All Star last season -- leads returning position players after hitting .292 for the Express last season. Tyler Cheney of Washington returns after going 6-2.

The Express play at Joannes Baseball Stadium, which has been undergoing some improvements.

La Crosse Loggers -- Andy McKay, coach at Sacramento City College, takes over as the field manager of the Loggers, who suffered through a disappointing season last year.

Justin Toole of Iowa heads returning position players, while Aaron Dott of Whitewater and Jordan Herbert of UWM are two of the most promising returning pitchers.

Among new players is Cory Vaughn, who played at San Diego State and is the son of former Brewer Greg Vaughn,

The Loggers play at Copeland Park.

Madison Mallards -- The Mallards annually lead the NWL in attendance, drawing more than 200,000 fans last season.

The highlight of the season was a 16-game winning streak. Catcher Eric Nielsen of Purdue, a NWL All Star last season, returns to lead position players as does Brandon Wikoff, who hit .327 for Madison in 2007.

The Mallards play at Warner Park, the site of this season's NWL All Star Game on July 14.

Wisconsin Woodchucks -- Former Brewer Jim Gantner manages this Wausau-based team. His son, Matt, who plays at Highland College, is one of the returning players for the Chucks.

Jeremy Barnes of Notre Dame is returning. He was second on the team in home runs last season. Brent Weaver of Oklahoma is another returnee with some pop.

The Woodchucks play at Athletic Park.

In addition to these Wisconsin teams, the NWL includes Minnesota teams in Alexandria, Brainerd, Duluth, Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud, and teams in Waterloo, Iowa, Battle Creek, Mich., and Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Pewaukee, Waukesha and Wisconsin Dells have been mentioned in rumors about league expansion.

NWL games are affordable and fun. Most teams have tons of promotions, ranging from fireworks to bobbleheads to between innings entertainment and contests.

You still can't beat Major League baseball at Miller Park. But, if you're looking for an alternative or an additional baseball fix, you can find out more about the NWL and teams' schedules at

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.