Willmar, MN — The Honkers had won three straight games against the Willmar Stingers and it looked like they would make it four in a row, but the Stingers got two runs in the eighth inning to win 4-2 and split the series against Rochester.
The Honkers’ offense started the game strong when lead-off batter Evan Berkey (Cal State-Bakersfield) took the first pitch he saw and singled it into the outfield. Kyler McMahan (Oregon State) advanced Berkey to second base when he hit a ball that was mishandled by Stinger third baseman Sam Baier.
Andy Armstrong (Oregon State) kept the momentum going by hitting a fielder’s choice which allowed Berkey to score giving Rochester a 1-0 lead with runners on the corners and after another error by Baier no outs recorded. Unfortunately, Willmar’s starter Trevor Divinski settled down and retired the next three batters he faced to keeo tge damage at just one run.
Rochester’s starter David Lemasters (Lake Erie College) also got off to a great start by retiring the first three Willmar batters he faced in just six pitches.
The Stingers got their first runner into scoring position in the second when Justin King and Chase Stanke each drew walks. King attempted to score from second base on a Riley Johnson, but Honkers’ center fielder McMahan made a great throw to catcher Ryan Wrobleski (Dallas Baptist) who tagged King out at home to end the threat.
Lemasters registered his second 1-2-3 inning in the top of the fourth inning.
However, Divinski kept pace by also retiring the side when he took the mound in the bottom of the fourth.
After an uneventful fifth inning, Willmar’s offense broke through against Lemasters in the bottom of the sixth. It started when Brennan McKenzie hit a single and Tyler Bosetti drew a walk.
Both runners moved into scoring position on a groundout by Stanke. Then, they both scored on a ground-rule double by Johnson who’s big hit gave the Stingers a 2-1 lead.
Joel Cheatwood relieved Divinski in the eighth inning, but the Honkers were still able to tie the game when Berkey drew a walk and Armstrong hit an RBI double to bring him home.
Mitchell Allen (New Mexico State) came in to pitch the bottom of the eighth for Rochester, but Willmar’s offense was ready to re-take the lead as they loaded the bases thanks to a King single, a Bosetti walk, and a Stanke hit-by-pitch.
With the home crowd cheering them on, the Stingers took a 3-2 lead on an RBI single by Johnson. They added an insurance run when Daniel Walsh hit a sacrifice-fly to score Bosetti and give Willmar a 4-2 lead.
Rochester was now down to their final three outs and facing a new pitcher, Aldo Fernandez. The Honkers came up swinging, but the balls they hit went right to the Stingers’ position players who made good plays to record the last two outs of the game.
The 4-2 loss drops the Honkers’ second-half record to 8-7 and their overall record to 26-24.
Tonight’s Profile Sanford Player of the Game was Andy Armstrong who went 2-4 with one RBI and two stolen bases.
The Honkers return to Mayo Field on Saturday, July 20, when they play the Stingers again at 6:05 p.m. The series concludes on Sunday, July 21, at 1: 05 p.m. when the two team’s play their sixth straight game against each other.