In the first game of an important road doubleheader, the Rochester Honkers (14-9) defeated the Duluth Huskies (12-9) 8-5 and, for at least the next few hours, took sole possession of first place in the Great Plains East Division.
Jacob Merithew (Central Missouri) started on the mound for the Duluth and had a disastrous first inning. He walked four batters and hit another, bringing in two runs.
Then Ben North (Creighton) stepped up to the plate with bases loaded and two outs. Over their last few games, the Honkers had struggled with leaving runners on base, but North slapped a single to left, bringing home two runs as Rochester took a 4-0 lead.
Kaden Wichkersham (Hutchinson Community College) made the start for Rochester, and Duluth’s offense went to work. After striking out the first batter, the young right-hander allowed a walk and then a single, which put runners on first and third with just one out.
Brylan West (Florida International), who had five hits the night before against La Crosse, came to bat with a chance to get the Huskies right back in it. Wickersham induced a ground ball to third base, and North began the 5-4-3 double play to end the inning and get out of trouble.
The Honkers tacked on another run on a sacrifice fly by Nico Regino (Charleston Southern), but Duluth put together back-to-back two-run innings to pull within one run. That chased Wickersham, who struggled through his three-inning outing and allowed seven total hits.
In the fourth, Easton Richter (St. Louis) led off with a double, and Brendan O’Sullivan (UNLV) came up with two outs and singled to left field just out of the reach of the shortstop Carson Applegate (Kentucky) to put the Honkers back up by two.
Frank Craska (Quinnipiac) came on to relieve Wickersham in the home half of the fourth and faced the minimum in his first inning of work.
In the next half inning, North came up in another RBI chance and hit a slow roller down the third base line, and Lucas Kelly (Texas A&M) let it roll down the line. Much to his displeasure, the ball rolled and hit the third base bag, bringing Kimo Fukofuka (San Jose State) home.
On the next pitch, North took off for second, Jack Vanoncini’s (Cal St. Fullerton) sailed, and Jakob Guardado (Pasadena City College) easily scored from third. The Honkers regained their original four-run lead and took all the momentum.
Duluth started chipping away again in the bottom half of the frame as Kasen Wells (Texas A&M) doubled, and Brendan Compton (Arizona State) singled him in to climb within three.
That was it for the scoring as Michael Banderas (San Joaquin Delta College) took the mound in the seventh and did not surrender a hit. He finished off the three-inning save, and the Honkers emerged victorious.
Banderas extended his scoreless inning streak to 14 1/3 innings as the Honkers look to continue the momentum in the second game and sweep the doubleheader.
The Honkers battle Duluth again today to stay in control of their own destiny in the Great Plains East. The first pitch for game two is at 6:35 pm.
The Rochester Honkers began their 30th season of play on May 29th. Keep up with the team on social media by following them on Twitter (@RochHonkers) and Instagram (@honkersbaseball) and like the Honkers on Facebook at Rochester Honkers Baseball Club. Interact on social by using the hashtag #FunForTheWholeFlock!
The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Now in its’ 30th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 24 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires, and front office staff, over 310 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (NYM), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and 2019/2021 Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and 2021 All-Star, MLB Gold Glove winner and 2019 Second Team All-MLB shortstop Marcus Semien (TEX). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website at watchnwl.com and on ESPN+. For more information, visit www.northwoodsleague.com or download the Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.