Honkers Lose Pitchers Duel
Willmar, MN — The Honkers got great pitching from their starter and relievers, but it wasn’t enough as the Willmar Stingers grinded out a 1-0 win to preserve their lead over the Rochester Honkers and the St. Cloud Rox for first place in the division.
Honkers’ second baseman Evan Berkey (Cal State-Bakersfield) started the game by hitting the first pitch he saw for a lead-off single. Berkey then advanced himself to scoring position by stealing second base. Unfortunately, Willmar starting pitcher Garret Rukes settled down after that and retired the next three Honkers.
The Stingers also got off to a good offensive start when their lead-off batter, Sam Baier, hit a single off of Rochester’s starter Dwayne Marshall (Maryland-Eastern Shore). Baier advanced to second on a stolen base and reached third base on a groundout. Then, Tyler Bossetti got the lone RBI of the game by hitting a groundout to Rochester’s shortstop Andy Armstrong (Oregon State) which allowed Baier to score from third.
With the bases now empty, Marshall allowed a walk and a double, but prevented any more runs by getting John Trousdale to hit a grounder to Berkey for the third out.
Rukes cruised through the Honkers’ lineup by allowing just two singles throughout the second, third, and fourth inning.
After an up-and-down start, Marshall’s pitching seemed to be getting better since he only allowed one hit in the third and fourth inning.
With the score still 1-0, Marshall was relieved by Mike Lopez (Cal State-San Marcos). He got his first out on his second pitch of the inning, but then gave up two consecutive singles to put a Stingers runner in scoring position (second base). Fortunately, he followed that up by getting his next two batters out, including his first strikeout.
Berkey got his third single of the game to start the sixth inning on a high note, but once again Rukes bounced back by retiring the next three batters.
Lopez retired the side in the bottom half of the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, Rochester got it’s best scoring opportunity when Logan Denholm (California-Davis) hit a one-out double and Nathan Webb (California-Riverside) drew a walk. However, Rukes put an exclamation mark on his great outing by striking out Kyler McMahan (Oregon State) to end the inning.
Rukes ended his night with four strikeouts, one walk, and just five hits in seven shutout innings.
Following three scoreless innings by Lopez, Mitchell Allen (New Mexico State) came in to pitch the eighth inning for the Honkers. He made it three consecutive innings in which Rochester’s pitchers had retired the side.
Despite their great pitching, the Honkers still found themselves down 1-0 as they entered the ninth inning. Zack Zalesky (Oregon State) advanced to first base on a dropped third strike, but that’s as close as Rochester would get as Willmar reliever Aldo Fernandez got Denholm to hit a pop-out to center field and induced Ryan Wrobleski (Dallas Baptist) to hit into a double play to end the game.
The 1-0 loss moves the Honkers’ record to 16-12. That puts Rochester in third place in the division, 1.5 games behind Willmar and 1 game behind the St. Cloud Rox.
Despite giving up just one run, Marshall was named the losing pitcher.
The Profile Sanford Player of the Game was Evan Berkey for recording three of the Honkers’ six hits and the only Honkers’ stolen base.
Rochester will try to split the series when they play Willmar again on Wednesday, June 26, at 7:05 p.m. After that, the Honkers begin a home-and-home series with the MoonDogs in Mankato at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday, June 27. That series will finish up on Friday, June 28, at Rochester’s Mayo Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.