A six-hit seventh boosts the Honkers by the Bombers at Mayo Field, 10-5
(Rochester, Minn.)– After a brief break for All-Star festivities, the Honkers and Bombers each began their final stretch of the season Thursday night at Mayo Field. A big rally late helped the Honkers to their third-straight win, 10-5, over the Battle Creek Bombers.
Michael Freeman (Oklahoma State) struggled in the first inning of his third start since returning from injury. To open the action Thursday evening, Freeman walked the lead-off man Spencer Thornton (San Diego State) on four pitches. The next two Bombers batters reached on an infield single and a hit by pitch to load the bases with nobody out. Freeman limited the damage, but the Bombers still came away with the lead, 2-0, after a passed ball scored a run and fielder’s choice scored another.
The Bombers struck again in the third off Freeman. Brendan Collins (Columbus State) led the inning off with a single and he eventually came around to score on a Colby Bortles (Ole Miss) sacrifice fly and the Bombers took a three-run lead.
Battle Creek lefty starter Joe Mockbee (Michigan State) was strong throughout his start. The Honkers managed just two hits off of Mockbee in his first five innings. He first ran into trouble in the sixth inning, however, walking the inning’s first two batters for Reid Roper (Illinois). Roper beat out a would-be double play to score the first run of the evening for the Honkers with runners on first and third base, cutting into the deficit. But the Honkers still trailed in the game, 3-1.
Honkers reliever Brandon Stennis (Doane College) pitched a flawless seventh, putting an end to Freeman’s night. Freeman settled in late in his outing, pitching six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits, three walks and he struck out six.
Bombers starter Mockbee was also pulled after six sturdy innings, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and four walks.
In the bottom of the seventh, Luke Heller (Cornerstone) came on to make his sixth appearance of the season – all in relief. Heller worked himself into trouble quickly, walking the first two Honkers he faced, Jordan Smith (Minnesota) and Jack Goihl (Augustana College). After a strikeout, Ryan Boldt (Nebraska) smacked a single off the chest of Heller to load the bases for Corey Hassel (Oklahoma State) – the team leader in home runs and one of two Honkers with a grand slam this season. Boldt’s single also marked the end of Heller’s evening, relinquishing the bases loaded for fellow reliever Hunter Jobe (Pfeiffer) to handle.
It wasn’t a home run, but Hassel ripped a run-scoring single up the middle and into center field to score the Honkers’ second of the game. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Honkers All-Star Jeff Campbell (North Dakota) grounded an infield single to Bombers shortstop Brandon Van Horn (Dallas Baptist) who let the ball by him to score two runs and give the Honkers the lead, committing his second error of the game.
The hits kept coming, too. Reid Roper doubled home one run and the ninth batter of the inning, Alex Schultz (Nebraska Omaha), singled another. With runners on first and second base, Jack Goihl capped the inning with a double, scoring the seventh and eighth runs of the inning. All of the runs in the inning were scored with Jobe pitching. The Honkers leapt into the lead, 9-3, with just six outs to record.
Stennis returned to the mound in the eighth and surrendered a long two-run home run to Matt Dacey (Richmond), his sixth this season. Getting two back, the Bombers sliced the deficit to four.
But the Honkers grabbed one back in the eighth, though. Campbell singled home his second RBI of the night and his 27th of the summer to push the Honkers to double digits with a 10-5 lead.
A quick and painless 1-2-3 ninth inning from Stennis gave the Honkers their 10th win of the second half, pulling the team back to .500 and just 2.5 games behind the leaders Willmar.
The two teams will play again tomorrow night, Friday, at 7:05 p.m. back at Mayo Field. The Honkers will have a chance to sweep the Bombers in two games just like Battle Creek did to Rochester back in June. Seth Holbert (Sam Houston) will try and extend the Honkers’ win streak to four games tomorrow night, simultaneously looking for his second win this season. You can find ticket information for Friday night’s game at rochesterhonkers.com.
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, visit www.rochesterhonkers.com.