Zubia powers Honkers to comeback
Zach Zubia's walk-up song, "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" theme song, fits his performances at the plate well.
When Zubia steps up to the plate, it's often good for the Rochester Honkers and bad for their opponents.
But things turned ugly for Eau Claire when Zubia stepped up to the plate on Friday.
Zubia finished 4-for-4 with two doubles and a home run as he led the Honkers to a 10-6 come-from-behind Northwoods League baseball victory over the Express at Mayo Field. Rochester (2-1 second half, 18-20 overall) will face Eau Claire (2-1, 16-23) again at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Mayo Field.
Zubia, a Texas native, didn't get to pick his walk-up song when the season started. He's grown to like it, though.
"The first time they played it, I was like, 'Oh, God. It's a little western theme,'" Zubia said. "But after that, it got me a little focused. I think it is awesome to have."
What began as a tacky song referencing Zubia's Texas roots has turned into an anthem Northwoods League teams fear. Zubia leads the league in home runs (14) and RBIs (40).
"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" theme is also a tune that calms the Rochester bench.
"You just know he is going to come through," outfielder Weston Hatten said.
Zubia did Friday. His first clutch hit came in the form of a two-run home run to tie the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Two at-bats later in the bottom of the eighth, Zubia hit an RBI-double that gave the Honkers a 7-6 lead. Rochester built that lead to 10-6 shortly after.
Rochester manager Trevor Hairgrove said that in his three years with the team he had not seen a player hit the ball past the flagpoles in right field at Mayo Field like Zubia's home run in the fifth. Add in the lack of wind, and Hairgrove came away even more impressed.
"He is just big and strong and he has a polished approach already," Hairgrove said.
Zubia's strong day Friday comes after a recent slump in which he went 1-for-13. He also struck out five times during that five-game stretch.
Zubia attributed his quick turnaround to the inmates at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester.
Yes, inmates at a federal prison.
The Honkers went to the Federal Medical Center Friday morning to play in a softball doubleheader against the inmates. After the Honkers lost both games, Zubia went home and reflected on his experience.
"Those inmates, they have fun playing the game," Zubia said. "I just told myself I need to have fun today doing what I love to do."
Zubia followed through on his goal. He also has another reason to smile: He found out he was named to the Northwoods League North Division All-Star team Friday morning. He will go to Wausau, Wis., on July 18 to play in the All-Star game.
Not bad for a batter who had not faced a college pitcher until he came to Rochester after a redshirt season at Texas.
He didn't mind the challenge, though. He said he enjoys high-pressure situations.
"That is what you dream of as a kid," Zubia said. "It is so fun."
It might be fun for Zubia, but it often turns out ugly for the pitcher and team facing him.
"It is a real honor to be looked at as one of the all-stars of the league," Zubia said. "I hope to keep it up for my team."
Rochester 10, Eau Claire 6
Rochester:Zach Zubia 4-for-4, 1 HR, 1 2B, 1 R, 4 RBIs; Jordan Hart 3-for-5, 1 R, 1 RBI; Johnathan Fleek 4-for-4, 1 RBI, 1 R; Griffin Neuer 2-for-4, 1 RBI, 2 R. Pitchers: Ryan Thompson 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K; Ben Strahm 1 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K; Ryan Dorney (WP) 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K; Garrett Cobb 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K.
Eau Claire:Matt Duce 1-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 HR; Beau Capanna 2-for-4, 1 R, 1 RBI; Luke Bandy 2-for-5, 1 R. Pitchers: Ryan Zimmerman 5 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K; Josh Gaworski (LP) 2 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K; Jack Wolger 1/3 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K; Kenny Ogg 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K.