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Dominant Pitching Leads Rox Past Mallards

RozekSt. Cloud, Minn. – In the final home game of the regular season, the biggest crowd of the season packed into the Rock Pile and saw a dominant performance from the St. Cloud Rox (23-11, 47-22) as they topped the Madison Mallards (20-14, 43-27) by a final score of 8-0.

With the win the Rox stay ahead of the Mankato MoonDogs in the North Division second half standings. The Rox have already clinched a spot in the postseason, and if they win the second half they will clinch a home game in the first round. St. Cloud also holds the best record in the North Division overall, so they would also have home field advantage in the second round.

A sellout crowd of 2,398 saw a quartet of Rox pitchers fool the Madison batters all night long and rack up a season-high 15 strikeouts.

Aaron Rozek (Minnesota State, Mankato) followed up his longest outing of the year with another gem. He threw six scoreless innings on Friday, picking up nine strikeouts. The nine strikeouts ties his season-high and it was the sixth appearance this year in which Rozek has not allowed a run.

Rozek was followed by a pair of pitchers who normally appear in starting roles for the Rox. Shelby Lackey (Pacific) came on with two runners on in the seventh inning and quickly struck out the first two batters he faced and got a fly out to escape the inning without any damage. After Lackey it was Logan Salow (Kentucky) making a relief appearance. Salow also struck out two batters in a scoreless inning. He now has 70 strikeouts this season, which is only one behind Reese Gregory for the most regular season strikeouts in franchise history.

In the ninth it was Collin Strall (LSU) on the mound for another shutdown performance. Strall, who in a pre-game ceremony was named team co-MVP along with Ricky Ramirez (McNeese State), worked a perfect inning to end the game, including back-to-back strikeouts on the final two batters.

The Rox offense was alive early once again, scoring in the first inning for the second straight night. Marcus Carson (Kentucky) led off the inning with a single up the middle and Ramirez followed with a walk, putting two on with no one out. Michael Strem (Boston College) laid down a bunt to advance the runners, putting them both in scoring position. Brett Pope (Western Carolina) then singled to drive in his fourth run in the last three games. Pope also extended his hitting streak to a season-high eight games with the single in the first. He has multiple hits in five of those games.

The Rox would score again in the fifth in a nearly identical situation. Carson led off the inning with a walk and Ramirez followed with a single. Strem again advanced the runners with a bunt, and this time it was Luke Ringhofer (South Dakota State) who came up big, lifting a sac fly to plate Carson for the second run of the game. Pope followed with a single, his third hit of the night, to bring in Ramirez and put the Rox ahead 3-0.

Another pair of St. Cloud runs would come home in the sixth. Mark Skonieczny (Illinois) led off the inning with a single, and Drew Freedman (Nova Southeastern) hit a double to put two runners in scoring position. Carson came up two batters later and hit a double to bring in both runner and put the score at 5-0 in the home team’s favor.

The offense roared to life once again in the eighth. Back-to-back singles from Denis Karas (Cal Berkeley) and Skonieczny put runners on first and second, and Carson was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ramirez came up big once again by lacing a double into left field that cleared the bases and put the score to 8-0. Ramirez became the sixth player in franchise history to drive in 40 runs in a season, and is tied with Austin Athmann for fourth place in Rox history with 42 RBI in a season.

The Rox will now hit the road to close out the regular season with two games in Waterloo against the Bucks. The Northwoods League playoffs start on Monday, August 15 but who, where, and when the Rox play is yet to be determined.

Tonight’s St. Cloud Times Player of the Game was Brett Pope for his three hit game. For more coverage of the Rox during the 2016 season visit www.sctimes.com

For more stats and information about the game, here is the boxscore.

Single game tickets can be purchased 24 hours a day at www.stcloudrox.com, by calling (320) 240-9798 or by visiting the Rox ticket office located at the Municipal Athletic Complex.

The St. Cloud Rox are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 23rd season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest organized 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 150 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.stcloudrox.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and on Google Play.