The Bismarck Larks completed the two-game sweep of the St. Cloud Rox on Sunday evening by a score of 16-5 to improve to 6-0. The Larks put it on the Rox early and often blowing the game wide open after just three and a half innings of play. Coming off their best victory of the season the night before which saw the Larks rally to score five runs in the ninth to secure the victory, the Larks carried that momentum into the game Sunday.
The Larks hot start continued after scoring another 16 runs in the game to up the total to 86 on the season. The next closest team is the Duluth Huskies which are 31 runs behind through six games in the Northwoods League. The Larks also lead the Northwoods League as a team in many other categories including total hits (69), doubles (17), triples (5), RBI (73), total bases (108), walks (62), hit by pitches (19), team batting average (.319), and are tied for the league lead in stolen bases (20). This offense is simply the best in the league and is the main reason the Larks have started out perfect.
What’s Next: The 6-0 Larks will take on the 5-1 Willmar Stingers at home on Monday night at 7:05pm in a battle between the first and second teams in the Great Plains West division. This will be the first of a four game series between the two teams in Bismarck, North Dakota.
How It Happened: The Larks jumped on the board in the top of the first inning when Zack Gregory lead things off with a walk before Wyatt Ulrich continued his hot start to the season with an RBI double to right center that scored Gregory all the way from first. Catcher Brody Tanksley walked before Gavin Rogers grounded into a fielder’s choice to make it second and third with two outs in the inning. Brian Leonhardt then picked up an RBI on a groundout to make it 2-0 after one half inning.
The Larks then batted around in what was a five-run second inning that broke the game open. Jack Chernow lead things off with a single to left field before Gregory walked for the second consecutive times in two innings. Tanksley then walked to load the bases before Gavin Rogers drove in the first run with a walk. Clay Woeste and Ronnie McBride both picked up RBI walks with two outs later in the inning to make 5-0 before Cole Taylor capped it off with a two-RBI single to make it 7-0.
The Larks continued the scoring in the third. Gregory lead off after being hit by a pitch for a fifth time this season (2nd in league), he then stole second for his fifth stolen bag of the season (T-1st in league) before moving up to third on a wild pitch. Wyatt Ulrich walked and then stole second before Brian Leonhardt doubled with two outs to score the two runners to create a 9-0 game through two and a half innings.
The Larks didn’t stop there, instead they put their foot on the gas with another five-run inning in the fourth. Ronnie McBride lead off and reached first after getting hit by a pitch then stole second before Jack Chernow was hit by a pitch as well. Zack Gregory then picked up his Northwoods League leading 12th walk to load the bases before Ulrich singled for his league leading 13th hit of the season which drove in the first run in the inning. With the bases still loaded, Tanksley tied the Northwoods League lead with his fourth double of the season while picking up two RBI to up his tally to 12 on the season which is good enough for second in the league, only one behind his teammate Ulrich through six games. Gavin Rogers then drove in the fourth run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 13-0. Leonhardt then picked up his fourth RBI on the day with another double which scored Tanksley and increased the lead to 14-0 through three and a half innings.
The Rox then got one back on a solo home run to left field in the bottom of the fourth. The next three and a half frames went scoreless for both teams as starting pitcher for the Larks John Howard was impressive in his Larks debut.
Howard from Washington University St. Louis in division three where he put on an impressive display over the last two seasons after throwing 159 innings with a sub two ERA and 163 strikeouts. Howard looked every bit of the part after going 7.2 innings with five strikeouts until giving up a few runs at the tail end of his start in the 8th when the Rox scored three to end his outing. Dalton Mitchell then came on to record the final out of the 8th inning.
After the three-run 8th for the Rox, the Larks capped off the victory in style by scoring two more in the ninth. Jack Chernow lead things off with his second triple of the season (leads the Northwoods League) into the right field corner before Conner Tomasic followed it up with a triple of his own into the right centerfield gap. Ulrich then knocked Tomasic in for his league leading 13th RBI to make it 16-5. The Larks capped off their sixth straight victory to start the season as Dalton Mitchell pitched the final 1.1 innings while allowing one unearned run to finish off the win.
Inside The Boxscore: The Larks have now scored 16 runs in a game in half of their games this season. The Larks are averaging 14.3 runs per game through six games which is more than five runs per game more than the second best team in the league in that category. The Larks have outscored their opponents 86-33 through the first six games of the season. Making his presence felt right away, Brian Leonhardt was the player of the series in St. Cloud after going 3-for-5 in both games including four extra base hits and nine RBI. Leonhardt is already in the top five in RBI in the Northwoods League. Zack Gregory was awarded first base freely four times in four innings on Sunday which saw him come around to score in each of those four innings. So, without registering an at-bat on Sunday evening, Gregory had scored four runs in the first four innings. This is the second time of the season that Gregory has been 0-for-1 at the plate with three walks and a hit-by-pitch in five plate appearances.