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Another close one for Honkers, Dogs

Rochester wins this one in 12 innings

By Guy N. Limbeck

glimbeck@postbulletin.com

When the Rochester Honkers face the Mankato MoonDogs they have almost come to expect a low-scoring, grind-it-out game.

The teams have met eight times this season with three going extra innings. Included was Friday’s 2-1 victory by the Honkers in 12 innings in front of 2,367 fans at Mayo Field. The other extra-inning games between the two teams both went 13 innings.

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"It seems like every time we play these guys it’s a close game," Honkers catcher Drew Beuerlein said.

Beuerlein’s bloop single with two on and two out scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning.

"In five at-bats I hadn’t hit much the whole night," Beuerlein said. "But then I got the barrel of the bat on it and it fell in for a bloop."

With the win, the Honkers kept pace with St. Cloud for first place in the North Division of the Northwoods League. The RiverBats scored four times in the ninth on Friday to beat Brainerd 9-8.

"Every game is big right now because we’re fighting for the playoffs," Honkers closer Arik Sikula said. "I think they’re (the MoonDogs) a very, very good team."

Sikula said the Honkers not only wanted to win to stay in the playoff race, but also to prove a point to Mankato, the first-half winner of the division. The Honkers won the season series between the two teams 5-3.

"We feel we’re the best team in the league," Sikula said.

Statistically Mankato has the best pitching staff. But the Honkers won 2-1 games on back-to-back nights in the final two meetings of the regular season between the two teams.

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"We threw everything we had at them," Honkers manager Rusty McNamara said. "Our entire staff stepped up and did a fantastic job."

In the last two games, Rochester starters have gone five innings each time and allowed one run. The Honkers bullpen threw five shutout innings on Thursday and seven more scoreless frames on Friday.

"Our pitching the last two games, and the relief pitching, has pretty much won the games for us," Sikula said.

Sikula earned his league-best 15th save on Thursday. He threw two scoreless innings on Friday for the win. With that stretch he said he will not be available tonight when the Honkers play the first of two big games at St. Cloud.

"We’re battling St. Cloud," Beuerlein said. "If we can keep winning, we’ll control our own destiny."

Friday’s win was the third straight for the Honkers, who are 13-6 in the second half of the season with 17 games to play. St. Cloud is 12-5.

Friday’s loss might be costly for the MoonDogs. Left-handed starting pitcher Ryan Demmin felt a pop in his throwing elbow in the fifth inning and had to leave after working out of a bases-loaded jam in the frame. Rochester third baseman Tony Thompson also left the game with a twinge in his left shoulder.

Until the 12th inning, the only scoring came on a pair of solo homers in the fourth inning. Cody Fick hit a long homer for Mankato in the top of the inning to center field, just to the left of the green monster and over the Perkins sign. It was the only hit allowed by starter Drew Gagnon in five innings.

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In the bottom of the fourth, Rance Roundy hit his sixth homer of the year to left-center field. Roundy, who finished 3-for-5 with an intentional walk, started the winning rally with a two-out single in the 12th. After John Tommasini walked, Beuerlein delivered his game-winning hit.

The Honkers play at St. Cloud today at 7:05 p.m. and on Saturday at 6:05 p.m.

"Those are two big games," McNamara said.

D4:Box score, Northwoods League standings

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