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(July 12)-A five-run ninth falls just short of comeback; Honkers lose to Growlers, 10-9

The Honkers’ three-game win streak ends at Mayo Field Saturday night after gallant comeback falls just short 

(Rochester, Minn.)– An enormous rally in the ninth inning falls just short and the Honkers drop Saturday night’s ballgame, 10-9, to the Kalamazoo Growlers.

Nick Gruener (Harvard) took the mound Saturday night in search of his fourth win of the season in his first start against Kalamazoo this summer. Gruener surrendered a lead-off single to Troy Montgomery (Ohio State) who promptly stole second base. A dropped third strike moved Montgomery to third base, putting Gruener at risk of allowing the game’s first run. In stepped Karl Sorenson (St. Cloud State) – a Honker earlier this season before being waived – to open the game’s scoring on a fielder’s choice.

The Growlers’ early lead was only briefly held, and it was the Honkers’ turn to bat in the bottom half of the first. 

Connor Schaefbauer (Minnesota) reached first base on a fielder’s choice to bring up Casey Fletcher (Illinois) with two outs. A balk moved Schaefbauer to second base and Fletcher made Kalamazoo starter, Ryan Colegate (Ohio Dominican), pay. Fletcher singled to left field to score Schaefbauer and tie the game at one. Reid Roper (Illinois) doubled home Fletcher and grabbed his eighth RBI of the half – as many RBIs as Roper collected in the entire first half of the season. Travis Hull (Chabot College) returned to the lineup after dealing with an illness over the course of the last week. In his first at-bat, Hull singled home Roper. The four Honkers hits with two outs moved them into the lead, 3-1. 

Kalamazoo threatened to tie the ballgame back up in the top of the third inning, loading the bases for former Honker Sorenson, who swung the momentum with just one swing – a grand slam over the left field fence off Gruener. The grand slam was only the second the Honkers have allowed all season and both have come with Gruener pitching. Sorenson and the Growlers moved ahead with a 5-3 lead. 

It took five more innings for the next team to score a run, but the Honkers struck within one after Jordan Smith (Minnesota) flied a ball to left fielder Nick Yarnall (Pittsburgh) with a runner on second base and two outs. Yarnall committed his first error this season on Smith’s fly ball, allowing Ryan Boldt (Nebraska) to score, cutting the lead to 5-4 headed to the top of the seventh inning. 

The Growlers took their two-run lead back in the seventh, however. L.J. Brewster (Hawaii) inherited a runner on third base with two outs and catcher Brett Sunde (Western Michigan) at the plate. With two strikes, Sunde smacked a hard single to center field to score the Growlers’ sixth run.

Brewster found himself in more trouble in the eighth; the Growlers loaded the bases with nobody out. Kalamazoo scored two runs on a sacrifice fly and a double from Sorenson – his sixth RBI of the evening. The double marked the end of Brewster’s night in relief and brought on 2014 Northwoods League All-Star, Jeff Campbell. With two outs, Ryan Lidge (Notre Dame) doubled down the first base line to score two more, making it a 10-4 ballgame.

After the first inning, the Honkers were held to just one run on two hits headed into the ninth – so Rochester had just three outs to score six runs. And the Honkers nearly completed the comeback, too. With the bases loaded, Smith singled in the sixth and seventh runs for the Honkers. A balk drew home the eigth and eventually Rochester loaded the bases once more in the inning, this time for Alex Schultz (Nebraska Omaha). The Honkers had batted around the lineup as Schultz led the ninth off with a lead-off walk. Down just one run, Schultz worked the count full, but Growlers reliever Donnie Eaton (Michigan) pitched out of it, striking out Schultz looking. The strikeout ended the Honkers’ five-run ninth, finishing the game with a final score 10-9.

The Honkers can try for some rapid revenge Sunday afternoon as the Growlers return to Mayo Field for the final game of the series. Ryan Bower (Allan Hancock College) is set to take the mound for the Honkers in his first start this season. Ticket information for tomorrow’s 1:05 p.m. game can be found at rochesterhonkers.com.

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The Rochester Honkers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 21st season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 115 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (DET), Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Allen Craig (STL) and Ben Zobrist (TB). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League YouTube channel.  For more information, visitwww.rochesterhonkers.com.