In a game they desperately needed, the Rochester Honkers (14-11) fell to the Eau Claire Express (12-11). The Honkers had their chances early, but the Express prevailed 10-6.
The writing was on the wall for Rochester in the bottom of the first inning. Four batters into the game, they had bases loaded and only one out, and a chance to put up a crooked number.
Petey Craska (Georgia Tech) struck out, and Jakob Guardado (Pasadena City College) grounded out to first base. This was the first of three times the Honkers would leave the bases loaded.
At the top of the second, Eau Claire exploded. Aidan Dorsch (Folsom Lake College) allowed the first six batters of the inning to reach base, and each of them would score. Max Meyer (Frontier) came on in relief to limit the damage, but when the dust cleared, the Honkers trailed 7-0.
In the bottom of the inning, the Honkers started to chip away. Kyle Fossum (Washington) reached on a fielder’s choice, Easton Richter (St. Louis) walked and Paul Schoenfeld (Colorado Mesa) singled to load the bases.
Brendan O’Sullivan (UNLV) singled home a run, and Nico Regino (Charleston Southern) walked to force in another run. It looked like the Honkers had a chance to get all the runs back in one shot by Ben North (Creighton) grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
The bats would go quiet for the next several innings as each pitcher began to settle in. Rochester and Eau Claire had chances to bring runs across, but only zeros graced the scoreboard from the third through the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Schoenfeld hit a deep fly ball to right center field that had the legs to leave the yard, but Nate Witte (UW-Eau Claire) tracked it down and robbed Schoenfeld of a lead-off solo home run.
The Honkers kept working, and Petey Craska stepped up with two on and two outs. The power-hitting lefty hit a mammoth home run deep to right field, and Rochester pulled within two runs of tying the game.
Eau Claire responded by plating two in the seventh and one in the eighth. Heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Honkers trailed 10-5.
Guardado led off with a walk, and Logan Mock (Southern Indiana) singled to left. Then, after a flyout and a strikeout, Rochester was down to their final out.
Schoenfeld and O’Sullivan walked to force in a run, bringing Regino to the plate representing the tying run. Regino battled in the at-bat but ultimately grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
The loss outed the Honkers from first place for the first time since the first week of June and tied them with Duluth for second place, who both ended the day one game behind the Thunder Bay Border Cats in the Great Plains East Standings.
The Honkers play the Express tomorrow night in Eau Claire at Carson Park. First pitch 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.