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Honkers Walk Off as Winners, Move to 2-0 in 2021

ROCHESTER, MINN. — It was a back-and-forth game throughout, but a Ryan Thibert (Chico State) two-out single was the deciding blow for Rochester in their 2021 home-opening win on Tuesday night at Mayo Field.

Batting with two on and two out, Thibert pushed a ground ball into right field to score Otto Grimm (Minnesota) to win the game.  The Honkers came to bat down 7-6 in the inning but scored the extra-inning baserunner, Jordan Stevens (Kent St), on a Grimm infield single. For a second straight night, the Honkers came from behind to win in the ballgame’s final frame.

Rochester got on the board quickly, capitalizing on some early Eau Clare mistakes. The Honkers plated three runs in the bottom of the first, all coming on bases loaded walks by Stevens, Grimm, and Alex Featherstone (Oglethorpe). After a scoreless second, the Express got on the board in the third, scoring two runs on base hits by KC Swords (Eastern Florida State) and Henry George (Minnesota-Duluth) with help from a Honkers error. Eau Clare would add two more in the top of the fifth to take the lead, with a Swords walk and error setting up a Jarod Wandersee (Concordia St. Paul) go-ahead single.

The lead would not last for long, as the Honkers tied the score using a Seth Betts (Crown College) trip around the bases. Betts reached on an error, stole second, and came around to score on an errant throw into left when attempting to advance to third.

The Express jumped back in front in the seventh on an Alejandro Macario (Nova Sotheastern) RBI-single before Rochester took it right back with a two-run bottom half. A Marco Castillo (Claremont McKenna) sacrifice fly and a clutch two-out RBI double by Eric Rataczak (Minnesota Post Grad) saw the lead change hands a third time.

The scoring stopped until extras, when the Express’ extra-inning baserunner Sam Hunt (Vanderbilt) scored on a wild pitch, setting the stage for the Honkers to come back for a final time.

Tony Lanier (Augustana) got the win in relief, tossing 2.1 innings and not allowing an earned run with four strikeouts. Dillion Whitaker (Winona St) was the losing pitcher, going 3.2 innings of 3-run ball.

With the win the Honkers improve to 2-0 on the season and 1-0 at Mayo Field. Tuesday’s game began a stretch of seven home games in eight days, with Rochester taking on Waterloo at Mayo Field tomorrow night for Country Night. Gates open at 5:30 PM with first pitch scheduled for 6:35.

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