Honkers edged by MoonDogs in opener

MANKATO — The Rochester Honkers ended up on the wrong end of a season-opening pitchers' duel and lost 1-0 to the Mankato Moondogs in a Northwoods League summer college baseball game Wednesday night.

Former Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and he helped draw a capacity crowd to Franklin Rogers Stadium.

Mankato scored the game's only run in the fourth inning against Rochester's second pitcher Gabe Feldman, a right-handed junior from Wake Forest. The Moondogs' Justin Hauer got a one-out single, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a two-out single by Jose Perez.

Mankato starting pitcher Ryan Demmin, a third-year Moondog, was in control from the start against the Honkers and allowed just three hits with 12 strikeouts in seven full innings. Demmin red-shirted this year at Minnesota State-Mankato, after transferring from Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Rochester's only serious threat was in the seventh inning. Matt Dittman (Illinois) singled with one out, and Matt Miller (RCTC) followed with a double to the right-center gap. Dittman tried to score on the double but was thrown out at home on a 9-4-2 put-out.


Rochester batters struck out 14 times and had just three hits, with two walks.

Honkers starting pitcher Mike Strong (Oklahoma State) had a feast-or-famine first outing in three complete innings, allowing one hit with seven strikeouts and five walks. Strong walked the bases full in the first inning but escaped without allowing a run.

Feldman took the loss, allowing one run and six hits in five innings of relief. He pitched out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the eighth to keep the score close.

Both teams played with abbreviated rosters because not all of the signed players have arrived yet from college. Mankato dressed 16 players for the game, and Rochester dressed only 14, including just eight position players.

Three players from Rochester Community and Technical College were signed to temporary contracts and were in the starting lineup — Miller, Mitch Anderson and Angel Talamantes. Josh McKeon, a former Rochester Century player now pitching at Upper Iowa University, also started at designated hitter.

"It's going to be challenging putting this puzzle together day by day," said the Honkers' new manager, Ryan Ruiz. "We've just gotta go with what we're dealt. Hopefully we can come up with some wins before the reinforcements get here."

The Honkers play their home opener tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Mayo Field against Mankato, and their three-game series concludes Friday night in Rochester.

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