Beetles surprise Honkers
Baseball can be full of unexpected surprises.
The Alexandria Beetles were a prime example of that on Sunday at Mayo Field. The Beetles had hit just nine home runs in 47 games coming into play against the Rochester Honkers. Then in a span of five batters in the 11th inning, the Beetles hit two home runs and held off the Honkers for a 7-6 victory in front of 2,049 fans.
"It was frustrating," Honkers catcher Geno Escalante said.
Frustrating on several counts. One, the loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Honkers and dropped them to 5-8 in the second half of the Northwoods League. Two, they overcame a ninth-inning 4-3 deficit to force extra innings and then just missed overcoming a three-run deficit in the 11th.
"I think we did well for the most part, but the bats weren't there today," said shortstop Davy Wright, who was 3-for-3 on Saturday in the Honkers' 7-0 win over Alexandria.
The Honkers had just two hits the first eight innings, but still held a 3-1 lead at one point. Jimmy Waters had an RBI double in the first and Escalante had an RBI double and then scored on Wright's RBI groundout in the second.
Rochester had not allowed a run in 26 innings coming into the game before the Beetles scored in the first. But Honkers left-hander Phil Haig had a strong start overall, going a season-high seven innings and allowing three runs.
"Our pitching staff is really keeping us in games," Escalante said. "Phil Haig did a great job keeping us in the game and pounding the (strike) zone."
The Beetles tied the game with single runs in the fourth and sixth against Haig and then scored a run off reliever Mitch Caster in the ninth to take the lead. Caster hit Will Miller with two outs and the bases loaded to force in the go-ahead run, the first run Caster has allowed in his last six outings.
Escalante helped the Honkers tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, beating out a chopper to short for an infield hit, just Rochester's third of the game and first since the second inning.
"I try to give my teammates 100 percent," Escalante said. "I put the ball on the ground and hustled it out."
The Beetles then made two straight fielding errors on sacrifice bunts to load the bases with no outs. But the Honkers managed just one run on Matt Dittman's sacrifice fly.
"We were having positive at-bats, but couldn't get the big hit," Wright said.
Jake Tanis belted a long home run to left field off Ian Kadish to open the 11th inning to give the Beetles the lead. It was Tanis' team-best fifth homer of the year. Two outs later Miller had an infield hit and Brandon Garcia followed by pulling a homer to right, his first home run of the season.
Down 7-4, the Honkers then had four straight hits to start the bottom of the 11th to score twice. Rochester still had runners on first and third with no outs, but reliever Erik Shannahan got a pop out, line out and fly out to leave the tying run stranded 90 feet away.
• The crowd of 2,049 at Mayo Field set a Honkers home attendance record for a Sunday game.
• Century grad Josh McKeon, the scheduled starter for Tuesday's home game, threw a scoreless 10th inning on Sunday. It was McKeon's first relief appearance after making eighth starts.
• The Honkers begin a three-game home stand against Brainerd starting today at 7:05 p.m.