Baseball: Honkers squander early lead in opening loss

There's no substitute for veteran know-how in the early weeks of the Northwoods League summer college baseball season.

The Honker's Spencer Johnson started on the mound against the Eau Claire Express on Wednesday.

There's no substitute for veteran know-how in the early weeks of the Northwoods League summer college baseball season.

And right now, the Rochester Honkers are low on veteran know-how.

The youthful Honkers squandered a 7-3 lead after three innings and lost 8-7 to the Eau Claire Express in Rochester's 2016 season home opener on Wednesday night at Mayo Field.

"We're just young and inexperienced," said Honkers second-year manager Trevor Hairgrove.

"Eau Claire has a lot of their experienced players back already, and we're still figuring out what we've got on our roster," Hairgrove said.


Rochester (0-2) struck out 35 times in its first two games, and Hairgrove put most of the K's on crafty veteran pitchers for the Express. The Honkers fanned 16 times on Wednesday night, with nine over the last four innings.

"(Tuesday) night Eau Claire threw a third-year starter (Dalton Roach) at us, and their second guy tonight (Austin Schulfer) is a second-year guy, and veteran guys just know what's going on and how to pitch in this league."

Despite the alarming number of strikeouts, Rochester made positive strides offensively in its home opener with 11 hits.

The Honkers scored multiple runs in each of the first three innings to build a 7-3 lead. Joey Czarske (Arizona/Cal State North) produced the first runs of the season with a two-run double down the right-field line in the first inning.

Rochester added three runs in the second with Chris Scalisi (University of Redlands) delivering a two-run bloop double down the right-field line. Lucas Lorenz (Northern State) drove in two more runs in the third with his single down the left-field line. Scalisi and Lorenz are both on temporary contracts for now, as were seven players on the Honkers roster for the opener.

But the Honkers' bats went dormant with only three more hits and no runs after the third inning.

Another veteran player for Eau Claire played a big role in their comeback. Second-year player Daulton Varsho (Milwaukee) crushed a two-run homer about 375 feet to left-center in the third inning. He struck again with one out in the bottom of the ninth with a solo homer to right that tied the score at 7-7.

Varsho hit .296 for Eau Claire last season with 22 extra-base hits and four homers.


Eau Claire also got a solo homer in its three-run fourth inning from Daniel Herrera (New Mexico JC), followed by RBI hits by Tommy Hook (Northern Illinois) and Varsho, who finished 4-for-5 with three runs and four RBI.

Rochester used four pitchers in the game. Starter Spencer Johnson (Wayne State) allowed 10 hits and six earned runs in five innings in his first outing as a Honker. Jesse Ellefson (Montvallo) and Bayley Chesterton (Riverside City College) looked good with three combined scoreless innings of relief.

Tanner Schumacher (Purdue) entered in the ninth and took the loss after allowing the solo home run to Varsho and then an RBI double by Rudy Rott (Ohio), all with one out.

"It was the first time for Schumacher and he got his feet wet," Hairgrove said. "Varsho just got him (with the homer); it is what it is. He won that battle."

Hairgrove said he won't panic any time soon, although he'd like to have the rest of his team here. He said the Honkers are still missing 10 of their full-contract players and it could be two weeks before they are all here.

"Right now it would be good to be 2-0 instead of 0-2, but 0-2 is not a hole that you have to dig yourself out of," he said. "That's baseball.

"We'll figure some things out," he added. "Our pitching is going to be just fine. Our hitting will get better."

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