Rox Defeat Willmar 7-4 to Begin Four-Game Series
Willmar, MN – For the third time in as many games, great starting pitching, solid relief pitching and a late inning rally propelled the St. Cloud Rox to a victory. Matt Rodgers (W, 1-0) scattered six hits over five innings, striking out four and walking a pair while allowing just two runs, and Dalton Sawyer (S,1) pitched three scoreless innings, giving up just one hit and two walks while recording three strikeouts for the save in a game that saw the Rox end the night as the only team in the Northwoods League without a loss, defeating the Willmar Stingers 5-4.
St. Cloud (3-0) got their first lead of the game in the third inning on a Clay Ardeeser RBI single that brought Eric Loxtercamp around to score from second base. Ardeeser finished the game 3-for-3, with another double and two more walks, giving him seven base on balls on the young season to add to five doubles. Loxtercamp would score again on a base hit by Kyle Thornell in the fifth that gave St. Cloud a 2-0 lead.
Rodgers, who was able to get back-to-back outs to avoid giving up a run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, was tagged for both of his runs in the fifth. After getting the first batter of the inning to ground out, a Dan Motl single and a walk to Nick Rivera set the table for Sam Hall, who hit an RBI double to cut the Rox lead in half. After Rodgers recovered to strike out Troy Kuhn, Max Dutto hit a ground ball to center field that scored Rivera, however a great throw by Danny Baer and tag by catcher Charles Galiano kept the Stingers from taking the lead as they were able to get Hall out at home.
The Rox would jump right back in front in their half of the sixth on RBI base hits by both Baer and second baseman Liam Bedford, who finished the day 3-for-5 with two runs batted in. Garrett McMullen led off with a double and was driven in by Baer, who would score along with Charles Galiano on the two-run single by Bedford.
In the bottom of the same inning, Willmar (2-1) would answer right back with the help of a couple Rox errors. Frankie Rios hit a roller to Thornell at short that ramped up and handcuffed him to lead off the inning. He would later score on a Motl sacrifice fly to make it 5-3. The next batter, Rivera, would reach on a throw by Will Craig at third base that went behind Ardeeser, allowing Brian Pruett to score to make it a one run game. However Ardeeser stayed with the play and was able to recover the ball down the right field line and fire a laser beam in to Galiano, who endured a collision with Sean Beesley at home plate and hung on to the ball after tagging out what would have been the tying run, preserving the lead for St. Cloud.
The Stingers got two runners on with two outs in the eighth inning, but a Sawyer strikeout of Motl kept Willmar off the board. A leadoff walk would give the Stingers hope once again in the bottom of the ninth, but those were dashed after Hall reached on a fielder’s choice to Ardeeser, and Kuhn grounded into a game ending 4-6-3 double play to keep the Rox undefeated.
The Rox now head back to St. Cloud tonight, May 30th, for the 2014 home opener with the Stingers at 7:05 p.m. at Joe Faber Field, presented by Coborn’s. The game will feature former Minnesota Twins legend and two-time World Series champion Gene Larkin throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and signing autographs throughout the game, followed by a huge post-game fireworks display presented by Coborn’s. The two teams then face off Saturday and Sunday at Joe Faber Field in St. Cloud to complete the four-game set, before the Rox head back on the road for a two-game series with Waterloo beginning Monday, June 2nd.
The St. Cloud Rox are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 21st season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest summer collegiate baseball league in the world with 18 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, more than 119 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (DET) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Allen Craig (STL) and Ben Zobrist (TB). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League YouTube channel. For more information, visit www.stcloudrox.com.