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Honkers show Mallards the leather

By Donny Henn

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Greg Martin has been unbeatable so far pitching for the Rochester Honkers, but he’s not taking all the credit himself.

Martin got more than a little help from his friends — especially his defense — in Rochester’s 3-2 win over the Madison Mallards Tuesday night at Mayo Field.

Martin pitched seven scoreless innings, all before a 55-minute rain delay that started in the eighth inning and sent a crowd of 1,173 scrambling for cover.

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Martin improved to 4-0 and became one of the first pitchers to win four games in the Northwoods League this season.

"I just keep trying to throw strikes," said Martin, a 6-foot-2 right-hander who completed his sophomore season at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

"It’s pretty easy to go out and throw strikes when you have a great defense behind you," he added. "I always have help, every game. I can’t even describe how good our defense has been."

Rochester’s sometimes-sparkling defense was on display against the Mallards in the first game of a two-game series, and a four-game homestand.

It started with Rochester throwing out a Madison base runner at the plate on a base hit in the third inning, and the game ended with Honkers first baseman Aaron Senne making a diving stop on a potential game-tying base hit and making the put-out toss to relief pitcher Ryan Kussmaul covering at first base.

Senne’s game-ending defensive stop left the bases loaded with Mallards. Rochester improved to 13-13 with its second straight win. Madison, which has made the playoffs the past four years, is 11-14.

"As a pitcher I’d want this team playing behind me," Honkers manager Greg Labbe said, recounting the defensive highlights.

Rochester rightfielder Jareck West (Delta State) started a 9-4-2 put-out in third inning. He fielded a sharp base hit by Madison’s Robert Hubbard and threw to second baseman Brian Spear (Kentucky). Spear’s perfect relay throw to catcher Derek Norris easily cut down the Mallards’ Bobby Stevens trying to score from second.

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Honkers centerfielder Drew Hoisington (Toledo) flashed his leather in the fourth inning with a rare 8-2 double play. He ran down a fly ball to deep right-center and then made a perfect throw to first base to double-off Madison base runner Neil Medchill.

In the sixth inning, shortstop Shaver Hansen (Baylor) leapt high to knock down a possible run-scoring hit to left-center by Madison’s Evan LeBlanc. Hansen scrambled to retrieve the ball and made a strong, long throw to first base for the put-out, keeping the potential tying run at second base.

"We played great defense all night," Labbe said. "We needed all of those plays."

Labbe said Martin was an unknown commodity at the beginning of the season. But he has emerged as a reliable arm on a young staff that has struggled at times this season. It was the fourth time in five starts that Martin lasted at least seven innings.

"Martin has been tremendous," Labbe said. "He makes you beat him; he doesn’t walk anybody."

Rochester scored all three runs in second inning against Madison starting pitcher Trevor Feeney. David Flores (Sacramento State) crushed a two-run homer to left-center, his first of the season. Later in the inning, Norris reached on an error and came around to score on a passed ball.

Madison made things interesting with two runs in the eighth inning, just before the rain fell. The Mallards made reliever Tim Scott (Nebraska) pay for two walks as both of them scored on Medchill’s two-out single down the left field line.

Kussmaul ran into more trouble in the ninth, allowing two singles and a hit batter to load the bases. He got out of the jam with two strikeouts and Senne’s game-ending stop at first base. Kussmaul made a nice play to cover first base, just beating Madison’s diving Hubbard to the bag.

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Martin believes that the Honkers are a much better team than their record indicates so far.

"Absolutely do not be fooled by our .500 record right now," he said. "We know we have a great team here. We’re going to break loose soon."

HONKERS 3, MALLARDS 2

MADISON (2) ROCHESTER (3)

ab r h bi ab r h bi

Stevens ss 3 0 1 0 Hoisington cf 2 0 2 0

Hubbard 3b 5 0 2 0 Southers rf/cf 2 0 0 0

LeBlanc rf 3 1 0 0 Hansen ss 4 0 0 0

Medchill 1b 3 0 1 2 West rf/cf 4 0 0 0

Molina dh 4 0 0 0 Spear 2b 4 0 3 0

Comadena lf 3 0 1 0 Feathrstn dh 4 0 0 0

Roberts 2b 3 0 0 0 Senne 1b 4 1 1 0

Behren c 3 0 0 0 Flores 3b 3 1 2 2

Smith ph 1 0 1 0 Norris c 3 1 1 0

Pasono cf 3 1 0 0 Lutes lf 1 0 0 0

Totals 31 2 6 2 Totals 31 3 9 2

Mallards 000 000 020 — 2 6 2

Honkers 030 000 00x — 3 9 0

E — MAD, Stevens, Hubbard, Behren. LOB MAD 9, ROC 2. DP — ROC 1. 2B — MAD, Stevens; ROC, Spear. HR — ROC, Flores. HBP — MAD, Stevens 2. SH — ROC, Lutes. SB — MAD, Stevens, Hubbard, Comadena, Smith, Pasono. CS — ROC, Hoisington, Flores.

IP H R ER BB SO

Madison

Feeney L,2-2 6 7 3 2 0 5

Donato 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1

Gilgenhuch 2/3 1 0 0 0 1

Rochester

Martin W,4-0 7 3 0 0 3 3

Scott 1 1 2 2 2 2

Kussmaul S,1 1 2 0 0 0 2

Time — 2:35. Attendance — 1,173.

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