Honkers Stay Up to Split Series
The Rochester Honkers were involved in another extra-inning affair Monday, this time defeating Willmar 6-5.
Seth Holbert took the hill for the Honkers for his second start of the season, both of which have been against Willmar. Rain delays have been a common theme for Rochester recently, and was again Monday night, as first pitch from Holbert came one hour after originally scheduled. This would not be a short game.
Rochester gave up the first run of the game in the second inning. After strikeouts to retire four of the first five batters, Willmar catcher Brett Barbier sent a hit into centerfield. A dive by Schultz and the ball rolling to the wall allowed Barbier to round the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
Answering back in the bottom of the inning, Blaise Lezynksi drove a triple to deep center to bring in Karl Sorenson, who had reached on an error to lead off the inning. Lezynski was stranded at third after three straight outs.
Willmar struck back in the fourth to take the lead on a Nick Rivera home run, this one over the fence. That homer came in the midst of three more Holbert strikeouts. Holbert pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits and striking out 15 batters, increasing his total to 21 strikeouts in 13 innings.
While Willmar used the long ball to get another run home in the top of the fourth, Rochester used a little small ball to get things going in the bottom half. Lezysnki started the inning with an opposite field single for his second hit of the game. A sacrifice bunt by Jack Goihl advanced him to second, and Jordan Smith doubled down the left field line to bring him in. Alex Schultz then drove Smith in on a hard hit ball to the second baseman. Schultz singled twice and drove two in during the game.
John Schuknecht got his first hit as a Rochester Honker with a double in the fifth, and was stranded at third after advancing on a wild pitch. Schuknecht would again be stranded in the seventh after taking a base on ball. With the Honkers leaving the bases loaded and failing to bring in any runs, room for error was slim for the relievers.
Both teams went to newcomers to pitch the eighth, with Ryan Bower for the Honkers and Matt Geislinger for the Stingers each pitching a scoreless inning.
On for the save came Reid Roper and a leaping grab by Schuknecht at second led to the first out of the inning. Roper was not so lucky on the next batter, and after getting ahead 0-2, Nick Rivera hit one high to deep center and over the fence to tie it up. It was Rivera's second homer of the game and his third of the series. After a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth, it was on to extras once again.
After three singles to start the tenth, Nick Highberger came in to relieve Roper. Highberger struck out the first batter he faced, and the next batter reached on a double play ball that was bobbled by Schaefbauer at shortstop that resulted in one out and one run. Not wanting to give up another home run, the Honkers intentionally walked Nick Rivera to load the bases again. Casey Houghston followed with a single to drive in another before a strikeout of Max Ayoub.
Rochester used some different ways to score in the tenth. With one out, Willmar pitcher Garrett Anderson loaded the bases on three straight walks and Ryne Roper drove in a run by getting hit by a pitch and that was all for Anderson. After Brantley Claunch got Corey Hassel to pop up to the second baseman, Claunch couldn't get find the strike zone, and Schultz had an RBI walk to tie the game again.
After an uneventful 11th, the lights went out. The game was already three and a half hours old after the one-hour rain delay. As they waited in the field for the lights to come back on, the Honkers appeared like ghosts, ready to play some baseball. Starter Seth Holbert had no problems after a one-hour rain delay to start the game, and Nick Highberger overcame the delay as well, retiring the side on just six pitches.
As the game carried on into another four-hour contest, a sparse crowd stayed.
Honkers fans that stayed had their decisions justified in the 13th. Connor Schaefbauer sent a ball to deep center for a stand up triple to lead off the inning and Casey Fletcher singled him in on a base hit to right. The run gave Nick Highberger his first win as a Honker, as he pitched four innings of two-hit ball and struck out five.
The Honkers will not get much rest before their next game, a contest in Eau Claire, Wisconsin against the Express. Blake Quinn is slated to take the hill for a 7:05 p.m. start Tuesday. The Honkers return to Mayo Field for a 7:05 Wednesday night start to again face the Eau Claire Express.