The Rochester Honkers have secured their first postseason berth since 2010, when they lost in the championship series to Eau Claire in three games. Also locked in from the North Division are first half champs Willmar Stingers, the St. Cloud Rox and the Duluth Huskies. Though seeding is undetermined at this time, the Rochester Honkers will be on the road on Monday August 10th as they cannot climb higher than the third seed in the North Divisional Playoff.
The Northwoods League expanded the playoffs this season. Previously, the first and second half winners would play a three game series to determine the division’s representative in the championship series. This year, four teams qualify for the post season. The winner of each half receives a berth, as well as the next two top overall records. If the same team were to win both halves, the next three best overall records would fill out the field.
The North Division is down to essentially a pair of two team races, with St. Cloud and Willmar competing for the top two spots and Rochester and Duluth fighting for the third and fourth seeds. The only thing set in stone is that the number one seed will host the four-seed and the two-seed will host the three-seed.
The Rox and Stingers are guaranteed the top two seeds, but with Willmar just 1.5 games back in the overall season standings with five games to go, so either team could easily claim the top spot.
The Honkers and Huskies have some deciding to do about who plays who as well. They are currently tied for third in the season standings at 38-29. Winning more games than the Huskies in the last five days of the season would be the simplest way for the Honkers to ensure they don’t have to face the top seed in the division, but should the two reach the end of the year with identical records, the NWL tiebreaker system kicks in. The first tiebreaker is based on head to head record, with the team who won the most games between the two taking the higher seed. Rochester and Duluth split the season 4-4 so that scenario doesn’t solve the issue.
The second tiebreaker compares the records of the teams in question against the other teams in the division, starting at the top and working their way down to find separation. This scenario does not play out particularly well for the Honkers. Duluth went 4-4 against St. Cloud this year and 4-2 against Willmar with two games to go in that series. Rochester went 2-6 against Willmar, and sit at 3-4 against St. Cloud with one game to go.
If the standings stay as is, the Honkers would have to win their final game against St. Cloud to keep the tie, but then the record against Willmar kicks in, and Duluth would claim the three-seed. In that situation, the Honkers would travel to St. Cloud for the single elimination first round, and travel to the winner of the Willmar-Duluth game for the second round to qualify for the championship series. If the Honkers were to claim the third seed, they would travel to face the two-seed, currently Willmar, and have the potential for a home playoff game on Tuesday, August 11th, should Duluth pull the upset of the top seed, as home field advantage goes to the best overall record of the remaining teams.
In the NWL Summer CWS, the South division representative will have home field advantage in the three-game series since the South won the 2015 NWL All-Star game.
The Rochester Honkers next home game will be Wednesday, August 5th, against the St. Cloud Rox at 7:05 p.m. A Fireworks Extravaganza will follow the game, presented by ABC 6 News. The Honkers will play their final regular season home game of the year on Thursday August 12th, against Waterloo at 7:05 p.m. That will be Fan/Host Family Appreciation Night.
Catch all of the Honkers action on Sports Radio AM 1520 The Ticket, or watch it live at northwoodsleague.com via Stretch Internet.
The Rochester Honkers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 22nd season of summer collegiate baseball in 2015, 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 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (OAK). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website. For more information, visit www.rochesterhonkers.com