Honkers blast way past Eau Claire

Drew Ellis enjoyed getting an opportunity to hit in a key situation on Thursday. It was much better than being hit.

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Casey Worden of the Honkers is greeted by teammates following a two-run homer against Eau Claire on Thursday night at Mayo Field. More photos from this game are available at

Drew Ellis enjoyed getting an opportunity to hit in a key situation on Thursday. It was much better than being hit.

Ellis had been hit by two pitches on Thursday, and five times in the last four games, when he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning of a 3-3 tie game between the Rochester Honkers and Eau Claire at Mayo Field. Ellis had been hit by a pitch in both the first and sixth innings.

"It's a little frustrating because it doesn't feel good," Ellis said of getting hit. "So I just tried to stay focused and stayed in the moment."

He lived for the moment in a clutch situation on Thursday. With two on and two outs, Ellis worked the count full and then launched a three-run homer to left field off of reliever Johnathon Tripp to give the Honkers a 6-3 victory.

"He threw me a couple of breaking balls early in the count and I just tried to stay with it and tried not to do to much," Ellis said. Ellis fouled off a slider on one 3-2 pitch before getting a fastball that he pulled to left for his second homer in 10th games with the Honkers.


"Yeah, I was looking for a fastball," Ellis said.

"He came back with a fastball and they guys are making strides (at the plate) and thinking on their own," Honkers manager Trevor Hairgrove said.

Hairgrove returns

Hairgrove was back after missing the last three games — two on Wednesday — as his wife gave birth to the couple's first child in Rochester early Wednesday morning.

"The first game back, and maybe I brought them a little luck," Hairgrove said. "But the team is getting better."

Thursday's loss snapped the Honkers' three-game losing streak and moved the team to 7-23 with six games left in the first half of the season. But the team has been in most games lately as five of the Honkers' last six losses have been by one or two runs.

"We've been hitting a little bit the last couple of games," Ellis said. "We've found the barrel (of the bat) and we're staying with our approach."

Hairgrove is switching up his approach a little bit, too. He is no longer coaching at third base when the Honkers bat — that duty goes to assistant coach Ben Stephenson — but is staying in the dugout to offer the batters hitting tips.


"I'm just there to offer more advice and help the guys," Hairgrove said. "I think they're all getting better."

Worden homer sparks lead

The Honkers jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead after one inning on Thursday. Joey Czarske drove in his team-high 15th run with a two-out RBI single and Casey Worden followed with a two-run homer, his fourth in just nine games. The damage came against Austin Schulfer, who entered 1-1 with a 1.14 ERA.

The Honkers also received solid pitching in the game. Starter Houston Glad allowed two runs in 4 1/3 innings. The Oklahoma native was limited to 80 pitches because his family is coming to see him pitch next week.

Sam Bjorngjeld collected the win allowing one run in 2 2/3 innings of relief, while Hunter Van Horn tossed two scoreless innings for his first save.

"The pitching was great," Honkers pitching coach Demetre Kokoris said.

The turning point came in the top of the seventh with the game still tied at 3-3. Bjorngjeld had runners on first and third with just one out. But the lefty struck out the next two hitters to end the threat, setting the stage for Ellis' big homer.

"Those were enormous strikeouts," Kokoris said. "That was gutty."


"I think this is a huge game for us, they're a good team," Ellis said. "Hopefully we can get it going. In the next week, I think you're going to see more wins."

Left-hander Jackson Douglas, a Rochester Mayo grad, will start on the mound today when the Honkers play a 7 p.m. game at Eau Claire.

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