2016 Rochester Honkers Season Recap
The Rochester Honkers season was far from expectations, as the Honkers finished the 2016 season with a record of 20-52. They failed to make the playoffs after making them in the 2015 season.
Field Manager Trevor Hairgrove from UC Riverside and Pitching Coach Demetre Kokoris from Santa Barbara City College came back for a second season with the team. The two returning coaching had new help, as Ben Stephenson, who at the time just finished a season as a video coach for the Minnesota Twins AA affiliate, Chattanooga Lookouts, joined as an assistant coach.
It was a tough start for the Honkers, as they started the season 0-3, but the season started to turn around after the Honkers swept the La Crosse Loggers, who moved to the North Division and a longtime rivalry was renewed with the Honkers.
Unfortunately, the Honkers had a 10-game losing streak that dropping them deep in the standings. The 10-game losing streak would cost the Honkers many games in the overall standings, which is important to make the playoffs, as they finished the first half with a record of 7-28.
But, the offense came alive in the beginning of July, and the Honkers were putting together much better performances. The middle of July saw the Honkers bring in a season-high win streak to four, and the offense was clicking. Rochester scored a total of 33 runs in the four games, and was looking good headed into the All-Star break.
As a team, the Honkers hit .280 in July, and were led by their lone All-Star, Turner Buis (Cal State Fullerton), who hit .320 with 10 RBI and three doubles. Alex Fitchett (Hawaii) joined Buis during the All-Star break to participate in the Home-Run Derby on the Harbor, where the participants would launch home runs into Lake Michigan. Fitchett hit two home runs, but the South Division came away with the team victory. In the All-Star Game, the North Division came away with the 9-5 win, and Buis entered in the sixth inning and finished the game. He went 0-for-1 with a walk and a run scored.
Drew Ellis (Louisville) also had himself a very good month as he launched a team-high seven home runs and drove in a team-high 22 runs in July. He also finished as the season leader in home runs and RBI with 11 and 35 respectfully. His 11 home runs were also tied for fifth in the league.
After a strong play before the All-Star break, the Honkers then dropped three of their next four games, which made it difficult to make their final push at the second half-crown.
Although the Honkers may have had a tough season on the field, there was no shortage of exciting baseball.
The most exciting game at Mayo Field was a contest against the Thunder Bay Border Cats on July 29. The Honkers took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Josh Davis (Pepperdine) and Ellis hit back-to-back home runs. The Border Cats would come back and score one run in the third inning, and four runs in the sixth to take a 5-2 lead.
The Honkers would not go down, as Ryan Fitzpatrick (Saddle Back College) hit a 2-RBI single in the seventh to cut the lead to 5-4. Then in the eighth, Miles Lewis (North Dakota) hit a RBI single, which was followed by a RBI single from Kyle Kasser (Oregon) to score Brett Harrison (North Dakota) to get the Honkers the 6-5 lead. Lance Berringer (Washington) closed it out in the ninth to get the save, while turning a double play in the process.
The Honkers had their share of walk-off wins. It happened twice at Mayo Field, and the first one happened way back on June 15 when the Honkers won in the 17th inning on a walk-off balk against the Waterloo Bucks.
The Honkers were able to do it again in extra innings, when Fitchett hit a RBI single in the 10th inning to score Davis against the La Crosse Loggers on July 27.
With the exciting games, the Honkers found themselves with a chance to make a final push at the second-half title.
A great start to July, and a strong finish, had the Honkers sitting with a record of 10-11 in the second half, going into a big matchup against the Eau Claire Express. Now, the Honkers needed to win the second half North-Division title to make the playoffs, but it just wasn’t in the cards for the Honkers. They dropped their next eight games, pushing them out of the playoff race in the second half. The Honkers finished the second-half with a record of 13-24.
Starting pitching was great in the month of August for the Honkers. Alex Fagalde (UC Riverside) and Ricky Delgado (UC Riverside) led a rotation that was on point through the end of the season. Fagalde finished the season a scoreless innings streak of 22.2 innings. In August, he didn’t allow a run in 13.1 innings pitched, allowed just seven hits, walked three and struck out 18. Delgado finished August with a 1-1 record, but carried a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings pitched, allowed 14 hits, one earned run, walked two and struck out six.
As a unit, the long ball was the way to score, as they launched 49 home runs, which was tied for fifth in the NWL.
The Honkers did not have any NWL Post-Season All-Stars, but Fagalde was definitely in the discussion. The right-hander appeared in 10 games for the Honkers, in which six of them were starts; he pitched 44.2 innings, allowed seven earned runs on 29 hits, walked 14, struck out 54 and carried a team-best 1.41 ERA.
Fitzpatrick, Kasser and Buis were the catalyst of the offense toward the end of the season, and finished 1-2-3 in batting average on the team. Fitzpatrick hit .290, Kasser hit .289 and Buis hit .287 at the end of the year. You could consistently see Kasser, Buis and Fitzpatrick in the top-three spots of the batting order as they got on base at a high percentage, and could hit the ball well.
Buis was the one that always seemed to be the leader on offense. He had a team-high 19-game hitting streak in the middle of the season, and his average, at one point, was up near .380. He led the team in games played with 55, hits with 60, was second in runs with 32 and drove in 11 runs.
The Honkers record was not what everyone had hoped for, but the players always competed, and they developed and enhanced their baseball skills. With that, the 2016 Rochester Honkers’ season comes to a close.