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Honkers Rally in Ninth for Opening Night Victory

It took until the ninth inning, but the Honkers finally took their first lead and never looked back in a 6-5 win over the Eau Express on Opening Night at Carson Park.

Trailing 5-4 and down to their final three outs, the Honkers mounted a rally. Seth Betts (Crown College) and Ivan Witt (Creighton) drew walks to open the inning, and a Ryan Thibert (Chico State) walk loaded the bases. An infield single by Jordan Stevens (Kent State) tied the game at five, with Eric Rataczak (Minnesota Post Graduate Baseball) driving in the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice.

Eau Clare got on the board first when Henry George was hit by a pitch in the 2nd. The game was quickly tied in the top of the third as Betts launched the Honkers’ first home run of the season, a solo shot to left field. The Express took the lead right back, capitalizing on an error to plate two in their half of the third. Another Honker error helped Eau Clare take a 4-1 lead in the sixth.

In the top of the seventh, it was Rochester’s turn to take advantage of the Opening Night defense. Keith Walker (Biola) and Alex Featherstone (Ogelthorpe) reached to begin the inning, and advanced on a two-base throwing error. After Walker scored, Betts made a bid for a second home run of the night, with the ball hanging up on the warning track for a game tying sac-fly.

Eau Clare once again would take the lead in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single by Derek Baumgardner, and a clutch line drive double play induced by Alec Holcomb (Concordia-St. Paul) kept the Honkers within striking distance.

Brant Alazaus (Walsh) got the start for Rochester, allowing three runs (one earned) in 4.2 innings pitched. Connor Mackay was excellent for the Express, fanning nine Honkers hitters over five innings.

Holcomb recorded the win with scoreless eighth and ninth innings on the mound.

With the win, the Honkers improve to 1-0 on the season and secure a fourth-consecutive win in the series with Eau Clare. The two teams will meet again tomorrow night in the Honkers’ home opener at Mayo Field. Gates open at 5:30 PM with first pitch scheduled for 6:35. The first 500 fans through the gates will receive a magnet schedule courtesy of Rochester Toyota. It’s also a  Kids Eat Free Tuesday, so kids 12-and-under receive a voucher for a free meal at the ballpark.

by Nick DeLuca // Nick DeLuca is in his first season as a Broadcasting and Media Relations Intern for the Rochester Honkers.