Willmar, MN — The Honkers bounced back from a rough outing against the Willmar Stingers in game one of the series, by beating them handedly 7-2 on June 21 to earn a series split.
Each team’s starting pitchers, Honkers’ Landon Anderson and Willmar’s Bradley Kinsey, got off to a promising start as they both faced only four batters in the first inning.
Zack Zalesky (Oregon State) broke through against Kinsey with a lead-off double in the second inning. After a couple quick outs, Logan Denholm (California-Davis) made sure that Zalesky was rewarded for his big hit by bringing him home with an RBI single to give Rochester a 1-0 lead.
The Honkers added to their lead in the third when Tristan Peterson (New Mexico State) hit a two-run single to score Kyler McMahan (Oregon State) and Evan Berkey (Cal State-Bakersfield). McMahan had reached on a single, while Berkey got on base thanks to an error by the Stingers’ third baseman.
The three-run lead proved to be plenty for Anderson as he kept his great start going in the third inning by retiring the side for the first time.
Willmar’s offense got going in the fourth inning when they recorded three straight singles to load the bases, but Anderson induced an inning-ending double-play to maintain Rochester’s 3-0 lead.
After a scoreless top of the fifth for the Honkers, Anderson returned to his third inning formin the fifth by retiring the side in just six pitches.
Kinsey was relieved by Gus Cunningham in the top of the sixth. Kinsey ended his night with seven strikeouts but gave up three runs (two earned) in 5.2 innings.
Anderson continued his terrific start in the bottom of the sixth by retiring the side for the third time tonight.
The Honkers got a lead-off single by Andy Armstrong (Oregon State) in the top of the seventh inning, but Cunningham got three straight outs to prevent any scoring threat.
Anderson ended his start just as strong as he started it by retiring the side for the third straight inning.
In the eighth inning, Mitchell Allen (New Mexico State) came in to pitch for Rochester and Willmar was much happier to see him than Anderson. In fact, the Stingers immediately took advantage of the new pitcher as Andrew Lucas hammered Allen’s first pitch over the fence to make the score 3-1. After that, Allen settled down by getting three straight outs.
The Honkers got back on track in the ninth when Armstrong hit a single, Peterson was hit by a pitch, and Ryan Ober (Oregon State) drew a walk to load the bases. Zalesky made Cunningham pay for loading the bases by hitting a grand slam to give Rochester a comfortable 7-1 lead.
Anthony Rodriguez (Monroe College) came in to pitch the ninth inning. After issuing two walks, Rodriguez threw a wild pitch which allowed both runners to advance a base. Brandon Bohning then hit an RBI single to bring the Stingers within five runs.
After allowing the run, Rodriguez was relieved by Keon Taylor (Georgetown College). Taylor recorded two straight strikeouts to give the Honkers a 7-2 win.
The victory improves the Rochester’s record to 15-10, just 1.5 games behind first-place Willmar.
Anderson was named the Profile Sanford Player of the Game and the winning pitcher for his nearly flawless performance: seven strikeouts in seven shutout innings.
The Honkers continue their road trip on June 22 as they head to Mankato to take on the 11-15 MoonDogs in a 6:05 p.m. start. The home-and-home series continues on Sunday, June 23, when the Honkers host the MoonDogs. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.