In a thrilling 13-inning contest, the Rochester Honkers (15-12) defeated the Northwoods League’s best team, the Willmar Stingers (19-6), and kept pace in the Great Plains East. The Honkers broke their three-game losing streak and won 5-4.
Both teams put runners on in the first inning but couldn’t bring them around to score. The second inning was where both teams put some runs on the board.
Leading off the inning, Kyle Payne (Northwest Nazarene) hit a solo home run to deep left field to start the scoring for Willmar. The next batter, Drey Dirksen (Minnesota State-Mankato), singled, stole two bases and came around to score on a throwing error by the pitcher Matt Brock (San Joaquin Delta College).
In the bottom of the frame, Petey Craska (Georgia Tech) reached on an error, and Kimo Fukofuka (San Jose State) promptly smacked a two-run homer to left field that snuck over the wall to tie the game.
In the fifth inning, Willmar took the lead on an RBI ground out by Gabe Swansen (Nebraska). It seemed as if the Honkers were headed for their fourth straight loss, but the baseball gods had other plans.
The Honkers loaded the bases in the eighth inning, and a bases-loaded walk to Craska tied the game once again. The Honkers had the chance to get more, but they couldn’t push any more across.
Greyson Christian (Northeastern State) walked the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, and it looked like the Stingers would take the lead. Will Lavin (Western Illinois) came in to clean up the mess.
Kevin Fitzer (Cal State Northridge) was the first batter Lavin faced and crushed the first pitch right at the second baseman Marco Castillo (Georgetown). Castillo made the catch and dove for second base to double up Stone Miyao (Hawaii).
The game would stay tied through the ninth, which meant extra innings at Mayo Field for the first time in 2023.
The Stingers scored a run in the top of the tenth, and in the bottom of the frame, the Honkers were down to their final out. Ben North (Creighton) hit a flyball to shallow center, and Parker Stinson (Indiana State) laid out for the ball and couldn’t come up with it.
That play allowed Paul Schoenfeld (Colorado Mesa) to tie the game again. That was one of a handful of times when Willmar could have iced the game.
Over the next three innings, Lavin was dominant on the mound. He finished the night with seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings of relief where he did not allow an earned run.
In the bottom of the 13th inning, the speedy Tyler White (Sacramento State) began the inning as the runner on second base, and Brendan O’Sullivan (UNLV) reached on an error that sent White to third. North stepped to the plate with a chance to win the game.
He hit a high fly ball deep to right center field. Sean Rimmer (Hawaii) tracked it down, but it was plenty deep enough to bring home White. The Honkers knocked off the best team in the league thanks to Will Lavin’s phenomenal relief performance.
The Honkers play the Stingers again tomorrow evening at Mayo Field. First pitch is at 5:05 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.