(Willmar, Minn.) – The Rochester Honkers (8-8 Second Half, 24-27 Overall) dropped a heartbreaker to the Willmar Stingers (13-5, 31-23) by the score of 8-7 Tuesday night at Bill Taunton Stadium. The Honkers took the lead in the top of the ninth inning, but the Stingers scored twice in their final frame and won the game on a walk-off sacrifice fly. The game was tied three times with three lead changes.
Konnor Zickefoose (UC Irvine) doubled to center field with two runners on base in the top of the first inning, scoring Zach Zubia (Texas) from third base. Ryan Fitzpatrick (UC Irvine) tried to score from first base, but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
After Willmar tied the game at 1-1, Mike Echavia (Nevada) reclaimed the lead for the Honkers in the second inning with a solo home run over the center field wall on the first pitch of the at-bat. Five of Echavia’s nine home runs have come since the start of the second half.
Tied 2-2 in the top of the fourth inning, Kenyon Yovan (Oregon) broke the scoreless tie with a solo home run to left field, his third home run of the season.
The Honkers extended their lead with two runs in the top of the fifth inning. Morgan McCullough (Oregon) hit a sacrifice fly to center field with the bases loaded, which scored Chris Ceballos (Orange Coast). Zach Zubia (Texas) followed with an RBI groundout to the shortstop, scoring Johnathan Fleek (Western Illinois).
Willmar answered with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and took the lead in the sixth. A double to center field by Tyler Reichenborn (Iowa Western) gave the Stingers a 6-5 lead, their first of the game.
In the top of the seventh inning, it was the Honkers who returned the favor and tied the game after trailing. Ceballos led off the inning with a double to center field. He scored three batters later on a single to left field by McCullough.
The Honkers started the top of the ninth inning with back-to-back singles. A sacrifice bunt by Weston Hatten (Nevada) moved the runners to second and third. McCullough gave the Flock a 7-6 lead with a single to center, which scored Ethan Ibarra (St. Cloud State), who pinch ran for Ceballos.
The late lead did not last as the Stingers scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. Luke Becker (Kentucky) tripled to right field, which scored the leadoff batter to tie the game. Two intentional walks loaded the bases in hopes of a double play. Honkers closer Garrett Cobb (Seminole State) struck out a batter for the first out, but Becker scored the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly by Josh Bissonette (Baylor).
Connor Jahn (Presbyterian) earned the win (1-0) for the Stingers. He pitched 2.1 innings, giving up one run on five hits while striking out two batters.
Cobb took the loss (0-2) for the Honkers. He surrendered two runs and struck out one batter, recording two outs in the ninth inning.
The Flock will return home tomorrow, July 26, for a doubleheader against the La Crosse Loggers. It will be Kids 3Buck Day, presented Overby Orthodontics. Kids 12 and under can gain admission to the game for only three dollars. First pitch is 12:05 p.m. Gates open at 11:00 a.m. Ryan Thompson (Illinois) is scheduled to pitch for the Honkers after being originally scheduled to start tonight. Ryan Anderson (Nevada) is scheduled to pitch for the Loggers. Anderson is 1-0 with a 3.30 ERA.
The Honkers will then make the short trip to La Crosse to play the second game of the doubleheader on the road. First pitch from Copeland Park is 7:05 p.m. Manny Armendariz (Doane) is scheduled to pitch for the Honkers. Armendariz is 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA. Mason McMahon (UW-La Crosse) is scheduled to pitch for the Loggers. McMahon is 1-2 this season with a 7.06 ERA.
The Rochester Honkers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 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 180 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.rochesterhonkers.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Honkers as your favorite team.