The Rochester Honkers are in the home stretch of the 2021 season.

Their last home game of the season is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Thursday against the La Crosse Loggers. The Honkers have shown improvement this season under first-year manager Paul Weidner, but will look to take an even bigger step forward in 2022.

Let's take a little look in the rearview mirror. Here are three things that went right and three things that went wrong for Rochester in 2021:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

1. Local stars shine

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The Rochester Honkers' Mac Horvath (7) runs the bases after hitting a home run during a baseball game against the La Crosse Loggers Saturday, July 3, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. The Honkers beat the Loggers 9-3. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
The Rochester Honkers' Mac Horvath (7) runs the bases after hitting a home run during a baseball game against the La Crosse Loggers Saturday, July 3, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. The Honkers beat the Loggers 9-3. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Paul Weidner was fired up when he got the call that former Rochester Century star Mac Horvath was coming home to play for the Honkers after his freshman season at the University of North Carolina. The Rochester native did not disappoint. Horvath hit in the meat of the order and delivered the thunder (four home runs) and drove in 25 runs, with a .287 average as of Tuesday. Horvath hit for average while also leading the team in walks. He struggled a bit with errors but his bat more than made up for it. He wasn't the only local product to shine. Kasson's Brendan Knoll finished 2-0 and had sparkling numbers over 38 innings. He allowed just seven earned runs all season and his ERA sat at a tidy 1.66. Horvath and Knoll put on a show in front of a packed Mayo Field on July 3. The Honkers beat La Crosse 9-3 thanks to two homers from Horvath and five innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts from Knoll.

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2. Starting pitching delivers

The Honkers' Brendan Knoll, who grew up in Kasson, throws a pitch during a baseball game against the Duluth Huskies Monday, June 21, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
The Honkers' Brendan Knoll, who grew up in Kasson, throws a pitch during a baseball game against the Duluth Huskies Monday, June 21, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

The Honkers starting pitching was an absolute strength this season. Knoll didn't start the season with the Honkers and he only had seven starts but when he was there, Rochester's rotation really stepped up. And after he left, they've kept it going. Lefty Brant Alazaus (5-2) has fired two complete-game shutouts. He leads the Honkers in innings pitched. Even though he doesn't have a glove-popping fastball, he finds a way to get weak contact from opposing batters and he rarely walks anyone. He only has five free passes in 63 1/3 innings. Aaron Vernon has also been a bulldog for the rotation. In 50 innings, Vernon has struck out 35 and owns a 3.24 ERA. Kenny Lippman (3-3, 4.60 ERA) and Casey Trapp (2-0, 3.86) have come on strong recently, too.

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3. Jackson Forbes' historic run

The Honkers' Jackson Forbes (21) winds up for a practice swing during the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Mankato MoonDogs Wednesday, June 23, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. The Honkers lost the game 6-3 against the MoonDogs. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
The Honkers' Jackson Forbes (21) winds up for a practice swing during the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Mankato MoonDogs Wednesday, June 23, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. The Honkers lost the game 6-3 against the MoonDogs. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Honkers' second-baseman Jackson Forbes has been tremendous this year. At the start, he was hitting dead last, but he kept getting on base and finding a way to wreak havoc. Now, he's in the leadoff spot and he broke a 25-year franchise record with a 40-game on-base streak, a mark he set last Friday at Bismarck. His streak came to an end on Monday at St. Cloud, but it's one that will be incredibly difficult to top. Forbes is second on the team in walks (31, behind Horvath's 33) and has swiped a team-high 20 bases. Forbes has prioritized trying to put the ball in play at all costs, and his blazing speed has given the opposition trouble. He's a true gamechanger and has the spark to really be an uplifting, positive presence in the clubhouse.

RELATED: Jackson Forbes follows in dad's footsteps while closing in on history

WHAT WENT WRONG

1. Road struggles mount

Rochester Honkers outfielder Otto Grimm (12) fields a ball during a baseball game against the Waterloo Bucks Thursday, July 1, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Rochester Honkers outfielder Otto Grimm (12) fields a ball during a baseball game against the Waterloo Bucks Thursday, July 1, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

The Honkers certainly enjoy playing at Mayo Field (20-15 at home) but they certainly had their struggles on the road. Rochester is just 9-18 on the road as of Tuesday, and there's not one specific thing that can be pointed to. The pitching splits were much worse on the road (4.96 ERA on the road; 4.49 ERA at home), and the Honkers' lineup had an OPS of .733 at home but that dipped to .669 on the road. Otto Grimm's home/road splits might sum it up perfectly. The University of Minnesota outfielder hit .265 at home with five home runs and 20 RBIs. His OPS is .878. But on the road, Grimm managed just a .087 batting average with no extra-base hits and a .323 OPS. The Honkers might want to petition the Northwoods League to play all their games at Mayo Field in 2022.

2. Walks spell trouble

Honkers pitcher Kenny Lippman (18) throws a pitch during a baseball game against the St. Cloud Rox Thursday, June 17, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Honkers pitcher Kenny Lippman (18) throws a pitch during a baseball game against the St. Cloud Rox Thursday, June 17, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Honkers pitching coach Derek Dahlke stressed the importance of throwing hard but also not throwing too hard, to the point where it messes up a pitcher's mechanics, causing control issues to mount. That's his philosophy. But it's easier said than done. The Honkers' pitching staff ran into some serious trouble because of all the walks. Through 58 games, the Honkers had issued 277 free passes (4.78 per game). Last Wednesday's 7-2 loss to Duluth was especially painful because the Honkers only allowed seven singles, but Duluth used 15 walks to their advantage. The Honkers weren't alone. Walks throughout the Northwoods League remained really high, but control issues cost them some ballgames.

3. Gap between top dogs remained

The Honkers Jason Swan (4) prepares to bat during a baseball game against the St. Cloud Rox Thursday, June 17, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
The Honkers Jason Swan (4) prepares to bat during a baseball game against the St. Cloud Rox Thursday, June 17, 2021, at Mayo Field in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

St. Cloud (47-16) and Mankato (42-21) are the two best teams in the Great Plains West division. The Honkers are 0-7 against St. Cloud and 2-4 against Mankato. If Rochester wanted to close the gap and be one of the best teams in the Northwoods League, a 2-11 mark against St. Cloud and Mankato needs to be improved upon.