Published On: August 13th, 2009

Rochester 7 – Mankato 0

The Honkers used a brilliant pitching performance by Zach Robertson (Iowa) on Wednesday night in Mankato to defeat the MoonDogs 7-0 and become the first team in Northwoods League history to win both divisions (all of Rochester’s prior division wins came before they were moved from the South to the North Division). Robertson tossed seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts, and the Honkers used 11 hits and five Mankato errors to manufacture seven runs and punch the Honkers ticket to the NWL Championship Series with a North Divisional Series sweep. La Crosse defeated Eau Claire 6-3 in ten innings to win the South Divisional Series, and the Honkers will host the Loggers on Friday night at 7:05pm in game one of the Championship Series. John Tommasini (Oregon State) started things off with an infield single for the Honkers, but Mankato start James Wise (Washington State) started a 1-6-3 double play before getting a fly ball off the bat MVP of Corey Jones (Cal State Fullerton) to right field to end the Honker at bat in the first. But Zach Robertson pitched even better in his first turn on the mound, getting a ground ball for the first out before recording two straight strikeouts. Both starters continued dealing through the second, but the bottom of the Honkers order sparked a rally in the third. Chris Auten (New Mexico State) worked a leadoff walk in front of Aaron Johnson (Illinois), who laced a double down the third base line and into the left field corner. Auten hustled all the way, and was able to score from first ahead of the throw to put Rochester up 1-0. Later in the inning, with runners on the corners and just one out, Danny Pulfer (Oregon) laid down a bunt with the squeeze play on, and Mankato first baseman Even Kohli (Illinois State) charged in to play it but no one covered first so no out was recorded as Johnson came home to put the Honkers up 2-0. Wise would buckle down, though, and got through the rest of the inning without a run scoring. But Rochester wasn’t done, and capitalized on four Mankato errors to push across three more runs in the fourth inning while chasing Wise from the game. All four of the runs scored before an out was recorded. Rance Roundy (UNLV) started things with a walk and stole second before Drew Beuerlein (UNLV) singled him home and moved to second on an error by the catcher, who struggled to corral the throw from left field. Auten was the next batter, and he singled to right while a fielding error on Taylor Black (Kentucky) allowed Beuerlein to come all the way home. Once Black did manage to pick up the ball, his attempt to throw it back to the infield went straight down out of his hand and kicked into foul territory for Black’s second error on the play, allowing Auten to advance to second. That was all for Wise, as Mankato turned to Alex Burgos (State College of Florida) and two batters later Aaron Dunsmore (Dayton) grounded to second, but Nick Judkins (Iowa Central CC) threw the ball away so no out was retired as a third run came home. Burgos would eventually get through the inning without another run scoring, and a total of three runs (two earned) came home to give the Honkers a 5-0 lead. Mankato would respond by getting their first two hits of the game against Robertson in the bottom of the inning—a pair of two out singles—but Robertson tallied three strikeouts in the inning to maintain the lead and Danny Brock (St. Louis) smashed a leadoff homer in the fifth to expand the lead to 6-0 and another run came in on an RBI single by Pulfer in the sixth to give Rochester a 7-0 lead. Those seven runs were more than the Honkers would need, as Robertson pitched seven shutout innings allowing just five hits and striking out a whopping 11, while Riley Bevill (Oregon) and Nick Ramirez (Cal State Fullerton) completed the shutout. Rochester did not allow an earned run to Mankato in the entire series. Robertson earned the win and is now 6-3 on the year overall, while the loss went to Wise as he fell to 5-2. Both of his losses this year came against the Honkers. Dunsmore led the Honkers offense with three hits, while Tommasini and Pulfer each had a pair. Pulfer also drove in a pair while Auten scored two runs for the Honkers.

La Crosse 6 – Eau Claire 3 (10 Inn.)

Dramatic victories are something that the La Crosse Loggers are getting quite use to these days.  Wednesday night in Eau Claire, Wisc. was no different as the visiting Loggers topped the host Express 6-3 in front of 1,495 fans at Carson Park to complete the two-game playoff series sweep and propell the Lumbermen right into the NWL Championship Series. A pitcher’s dual broke out early in this one between Logger starter Madison Boer  (Oregon) and Eau Claire starter Ty Bremer (UC-Davis).  La Crosse would draw first blood by pushing a run across in the first and then add another in the fourth to jump out to the early 2-0 lead.  Boer would handle the rest during his time on the mound, keeping Eau Claire scoreless for seven frames and limiting them to just three hits while striking out five. The Lumbermen would tack on another run in the eighth to push their lead to 3-0 and, after Jordan McClintick (Loyola-Marymount) pitched a scoreless eighth, the stage was set for a memorable finish. Craig Crumbly (Florida Gulf Coast) would come on to try and nail it down for La Crosse in the ninth, but the Express rallied, scoring three times to tie the game before Crumbly worked out of a second and third, one-out, jam to send the game to extra innings. The Loggers, as they have done all season, would once again show their resilency in the tenth.  All-NWL catcher Rob Brantly (UC-Riverside) would greet Eau Claire reliever Kole Calhoun (Arizona St.) with a double to lead off the frame.  Right fielder Justin Preckajlo (North Florida), who had already collected three safeties on the night, laid down a perfect bunt that moved Brantly to third with only one out.  After falling down 0-2, left fielder Nick Baligod (Oral Roberts) would extend his at-bat and eventually draw the one-out walk, bringing Aaron Gates to the plate.  The left-handed hitting Gates would launch the first pitch he saw from Calhoun over the right field fence to give the Loggers a 6-3 lead and send the Logger Nation in attendance into a frenzy. Troy Watson (Sacramento CC) came on in the bottom of the tenth and, after surrendering a lead-off hit, retired the next three batters to record the save and propel the Loggers into this weekend’s NWL Championship Series.

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