The Honkers can’t get their fifth-straight win against the Express after strong start from Eau Claire righty Peter Hendron

(Rochester, Minn.) – The Honkers took the field Thursday evening looking for a fifth-straight win against the Eau Claire Express, but division leaders Eau Claire would not allow it. The Express were a threat offensively all evening and kept the Honkers’ bats largely silent, winning the game 9-1 on Thursday night at Mayo Field.

After a scoreless first inning, the Express opened the scoring in the second with two runs off Honkers starter Logan Spitzack (St. Cloud State). Brian Mundell (Cal Poly) led the inning off with a double and promptly moved to third base after a wild pitch from Spitzack. Mundell scored on a single hit through legs of Spitzack from Drew Turbin (Dallas Baptist). Turbin came around to score from second base later in the inning after a single to center field off the bat of Brent Gibbs (Indiana) with two outs.

In the third, the Honkers got one back with two outs when John Schuknecht (Cal Poly) tripled in Corey Hassel (Oklahoma State); Hassel scored all the way from first base after hitting an infield single to the shortstop Peter Van Gansen (Cal Poly).

Eau Claire quickly regained a two-run lead, however, in the top of the fourth. Jeff Hendrix (Oregon State) doubled in Mundell with two outs and, like Hassel, Mundell scored from first base, giving the Express a 3-1 lead.

The Express added to their lead in the fifth after a lead-off hit by pitch to Hendrix and a double into the right field corner off the bat of Eau Claire’s catcher Gibbs, pushing the Express to a 4-1 lead with Spitzack still on the mound. The four runs scored by the Express were already the most runs in their four games against the Honkers all season, but they did not stop there. Gibbs scored on a hard single to left field from Van Gansen and the Express forced Spitzack from the game. Spitzack would finish the game allowing five runs on six hits and three walks.

Brandon Stennis (Doane College) relieved Spitzack in the fifth inning with two outs and inherited runners on first and second base with Turbin at the plate. Stennis walked Turbin on four pitches but minimized the damage in the inning after coaxing Hendrix to fly out to center fielder Ryan Boldt (Nebraska) for the third out.

The Honkers’ four-run deficit lasted until the top of the seventh when the Express tacked onto their lead in a big way. With Max Weinstein (California, Irvine) pitching, the Express put runners on first and third base for their second baseman Turbin. Turbin sent a 2-1 pitch from Weinstein over the right center field fence and the Express began to pull away, 8-1. The three-run home run was Turbin’s second homer of the season.

Later in the inning, Weinstein would load the bases and a pitching change was made. Spencer Greer (Western Nevada Community College) came on with the bases full and allowed a run-scoring single to Lane Milligan (New Mexico). The Express earned four runs in the seventh on six hits, taking a large 9-1 lead.

Express starter Peter Hendron (Santa Clara) returned to the mound in the bottom of the seventh inning, keeping the Honkers offense absent and guessing. Hendron retired the side in order and set down his 13th batter in a row. Hendron’s night would end after seven stellar innings, allowing just one run on four hits, no walks and five strikeouts.

Matt Panek (Ohio State) pitched the final two innings of the game in relief without allowing a run or hit against the Honkers. He retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth inning to end the game, 9-1, and hand the Honkers their first loss to Eau Claire all season.

The Honkers can get back on track with a win tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Mayo Field against the Express once more in their last home game against Eau Claire of the season and their last home game before the All-Star break. Friday night Nick Gruener (Harvard) is set to start, seeking his fourth win this season and rebound from a poor start in his last time out against Kalamazoo on July 12. For ticket information, visit rochesterhonkers.com.

courtesy: Andy Sroka