Honkers Win Fifth NWL Championship
The Rochester Honkers are Northwoods League Champions for the fifth time in the league’s 16 seasons.
Zach Robertson (Iowa) tossed six strong innings on just three days rest and clutch home runs by Corey Jones (Cal State Fullerton), Drew Beuerlein (UNLV) and Aaron Dunsmore (Dayton) gave the Honkers all their offense as they defeated the La Crosse Loggers 7-4 in game three of the NWL Championship Series at Mayo Field on Sunday afternoon in front a 1,194 fans, a new Rochester Honkers playoff attendance record. La Crosse kept it close, and the Honker’s lead was just 4-3 heading into the eighth before Dunsmore’s three-run shot extended the lead to 7-4 in the eighth inning. Arik Sikula (Marshall) pitched two innings of relief to earn the save and complete the victory. The prior titles for the Honkers came in 1994, 1997, 1999 and 2006.
The Honkers turned to their ace, Zach Robertson, even though he was pitching on just three days of rest. Fatigue appeared to be bothering him early, as he looked anything but his usual dominant self for the first three innings. He struggled with command, and had to pitch out of jams in each of the first two frames. But the Loggers got on the board in the third inning, and took a 1-0 lead on a deep RBI double off the bat of Robert Brantly (UC-Riverside). But the blow seemed to wake Robertson up, and he was an unstoppable force after that. He retired the final ten men he faced as he shut down La Crosse through the sixth.
Meanwhile La Crosse starter Tony Mueller (Winona State) dominated the Honkers bats through the first three innings, and faced the minimum in that stretch. But Rochester seemed to figure him out the second time through the lineup, and touched him for four runs in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead. John Tommasini (Oregon State) started the inning with a single, and Corey Jones hit a deep fly ball the bounced off the top of the wall and over in left center for a two-run homer to give the Honkers their first lead of the game. Nick Ramirez (Cal State Fullerton) singled two batters later, and Beuerlein came up with two outs and a runner on. He crushed a ball to right field that banged off the scoreboard for another two-run homer to give the Honkers a 4-1 lead and chase Mueller from the game.
The score would stay at 4-1 until the seventh, when the Loggers rallied back against the Rochester bullpen. With Drew Gagnon (Long Beach State) on to start the inning, he gave up a double, a single and a walk to first three men he faced to load the bases with no outs. Corey Jones then made a great over-the-shoulder running into shallow left field to rob a base hit and get the first out without a run scoring. But Gagnon would continue his command problems, and walk Boomer Collins (Nebraska) to send in a run and make it 4-2. The Honkers then went to Scott McGough (Oregon), and he gave up an infield single to Austin Knight (Dallas Baptist) that brought in another run to make it a one-run game at 4-3. But McGough reached deep in the tank and struck out Chris Engell (San Diego) before get Brantly to fly out to deep left. Drew Beuerlein was the real hero on that play, as he made a spectacular running, tumbling catch into the corner to save the lead and end the inning.
Arik Sikula (Marshall) came on and held the lead there in the eighth, and the Honkers gave him plenty of insurance in the bottom half of the inning. A walk and single but two runners on for Aaron Johnson (Illinois) with one out, and he singled to left. The Honkers sent Scott Berke (UNLV), who came on as a pinch runner for Beuerlein, but a perfect throw got him at the plate for the second out. Dunsmore was the next batter, though, and lifted a pitch from Troy Watson (Sacramento CC) that sailed over the wall in left for a three-run homer to give the Honkers a 7-3 lead. The runs would end up being important, as Sikula gave up a solo shot to Blair Moore (San Diego State) to start the ninth, but settled down and got the next three men he faced to earn a two-inning save and a fifth league title for the Rochester Honkers.
Tommasini was the only Honker with multiple hits, while the homers from Jones, Beuerlein and Dunsmore were the difference offensively. Robertson earned the win by pitching six innings and allowing just one run on three hits while Sikula gave up just two base runner in his two innings of relief. The loss went to Mueller of the Loggers, who gave up four runs in just 3.2 innings.