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The Story of the 2018 Rochester Honkers

 

The 2018 Rochester Honkers were able to make an improvement from 2017 finishing 34-38 in 2018 compared to a 30-39 finish in 2017. The Honkers placed sixth out of 10 with a 17-19 record in the first half. In the second half, they compiled the same record and again finished sixth. Overall the Honkers placed seventh 14 games behind the North division leading Willmar Stingers.

Like 2017, the Honkers put on a show with power from top to bottom in the lineup, they were able to crush 53 home runs which was the most of any team in the North Division. The 53 home runs finished second in the league overall just behind league leading Madison Mallards who finished with 55. The Honkers treated fans at Mayo Field hitting 32 of their 53 home runs at home, Alex McGarry (Oregon State) used the short right field fence to his advantage hitting seven of his eight home runs at Mayo Field. Additionally, McGarry led the Honkers with a .318 batting average. Matt Hardy (UC Riverside) and Christian Robinson (Stanford) led the way in the power category for the Honkers launching 11 and 10 respectively.

More than half of the time the Honkers send their fans home happy finishing 19-17 at Mayo Field. They did struggle a bit on the road finishing 15-21. Through the first eight games of the season, the Honkers were at the very top of the North Division with a 6-2 record, they went on a tear winning five games in a row defeating the Waterloo Bucks and the La Crosse Loggers during that time. The five-game win streak tied for the longest of the season for the Honkers, they went on another five-game tear beginning on July 19 defeating the Thunder Bay Border Cats, first half champions Bismarck Larks and the 2017 Northwoods League champion St. Cloud Rox.

The month of July was the best for the Honkers as they went 13-13 throughout the month. July was an improvement from June where the Honkers went 14-16. The Honkers caught fire during the third week of July going 8-2 over the course of a 10 game span and looked like they could make a playoff run. Chad Tworek (Keiser) and Josh Ibarra (Concordia Irvine) were the two Honkers named to the 2018 Northwoods League All-Star Game in Kalamazoo, Mich. They both faced one batter and recorded one out. Tworek became the ace of the pitching staff finishing the 2018 summer with a 5-1 record and a 2.71 ERA. The five wins tied for a team lead. Tworek at one point led the entire Northwoods League in innings pitched and finished with 56 1/3 innings and 41 strikeouts. Ibarra solidified himself as the Honkers closer and finished with 11 saves which placed him second in the Northwoods. Ibarra worked 27 2/3 innings and struck out 32.

The Honkers lost Jaylon McLaughlin (Nevada) in mid July who very well might have joined Ibarra and Tworek in the all-star game. McLaughlin played his last game with the Honkers on July 14 in Mankato. He finished with a .305 batting average with one home run and 12 RBIs. During his time in Rochester, he was at the top of the league in stolen bases with 20 and in runs scored with 36. The Honkers also lost right-handed ace David Lemasters (Lake Erie) after the end of the first half, Lemasters impressed each and every time he took the mound. During his time in Rochester he was among the league leaders in wins and ERA. The Ohio native compiled a 5-0 record and a 5-0 record striking out 38 over the course of 39 2/3 innings.

The Honkers recorded six walk-off victories throughout the season with the most notable coming on August 8 in a 7-5 victory against the playoff qualifying Duluth Huskies. Hardy crushed a two home run to give the Honkers the win in the ninth. Almost the exact same thing happened on August 6 as Rochester native Michael Michalak (Illinois) came to the plate down 1-0 to the Duluth Huskies and hit a two-run home run to give the Honkers another win. Michalak hit .275 and hit seven home runs in his second summer with the Honkers.

Four Honkers turned pro during the season as Ray Soderman (Oregon) and Rigo Fernandez (Cal Dominguez Hills) were drafted in the 22nd and 24th round respectively. David Noworyta (Hawaii) signed a free agent contract with the Detriot Tigers. Hunter Spencer (Bellarmine) signed with an Independent League team the River City Rascals.

From the bullpen dancing during the YMCA to the Honkers players launching dingers, the 2018 season was a memorable one in Rochester. Do not forget to continue to follow the Honkers players as you never know where they may end up.