There would be no 2009 Northwoods League champion crowned Saturday night in Copeland Park as the La Crosse Loggers were able to defeat the Rochester Honkers by the score of 5-4 at Copeland Park to force a deciding game three Sunday in Rochester.
Things got exciting early as Rochester was able to avoid the big inning as starting pitcher Brian Flynn (Wichita St.) struck out Logger first baseman Aaron Gates (Pepperdine) looking on a full count pitch with the bases loaded. Rochester would take that momentum into the second inning and pick up a 1-0 lead when Aaron Johnson (Illinois) hit an RBI single scoring Rance Roundy (UNLV). La Crosse would even up the score in the third when Aaron Gates hit a ground ball that the shortstop bobbled allowing Gates to reach first and scoring Chris Engell (San Diego). Rance Roundy answered back for Rochester in the fifth inning with an RBI fielders choice to take the 2-1 lead. La Crosse continued the game of cat and mouse as they picked up a run in the sixth inning on an RBI double by Robert Abel (San Francisco) to tie the game at two. The Loggers would take the lead for the first time in the next inning when Austin Knight (Dallas Baptist) scored on a wild pitch by Honkers reliever Nick Ramirez (Cal. St. Fullerton). La Crosse’s lead wouldn’t last long as Rochester would tie the game once again in the eighth inning. Aaron Johnson struck again for the Honkers, this time delivering a solo home run to even things up at three. After Aaron Gates got thrown out on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, Boomer Collins (Nebraska) stepped up and drove in the go-ahead run scoring Robert Abel who reached second on a fielders choice earlier in the inning. La Crosse would pick up one more run in the inning to extend their lead to 5-3 as Chris Engell drove in Collins with his RBI single. La Crosse took their two run lead into the top of the ninth with reliever Steven Gruver (Tennessee) still going strong and lined up for this first post-season win. With two outs and two runners on for Rochester, Drew Beuerlein (UNLV) drove in the fourth Honker run to cut the lead to one. The score would remain 5-4 though as Gruver struck out Chris Auten (New Mexico St.) to end the game and force a game three Sunday in Rochester.
Steven Gruver picked up the win for La Crosse pitching 4.1 innings allowing two runs while striking out five. Loggers lead-off batter Austin Knight was the only Logger with multiple hits on the night as he went 3-5 with a run scored. Chris Engell, Robert Abel, and Boomer Collins each had one hit and an RBI apiece to help power the lumbermen past Rochester. Aaron Dunsmore (Dayton) stayed hot this post-season for Rochester going 3-4 on the night to pick up his playoff leading seventh hit. Aaron Johnson drove in two runs for the Honkers which now gives him four this post-season.
The final game of the Northwoods League Championship Series will be played Sunday at 3:05 in Rochester. Tony Mueller (Winona St.) of the Loggers is expected to take the mound against Rochester’s Drew Gagnon (Long Beach State). La Crosse is looking for their first Northwoods League title as Rochester will be playing for their fifth.