Entering the final week of a shortened Northwoods League summer season, the Saint Cloud Rox remain the hottest team in the league. Chasing down the Waterloo Bucks, they seek to win a division crown — this year it’s a “Minnesota-Iowa Pod — for a second straight year.
After an exhilarating Thursday night win in Willmar, the Rox have won 12 of their last 14. The team returns to Granite City — where they’ve won 11 straight — Sunday afternoon against fourth place Mankato.
Forty-eight hours earlier at Bill Taunton Stadium, Blake Stelzer picked up his seventh save for Saint Cloud in dramatic fashion. Trailing 4-3, the Stingers loaded the bases with three consecutive one-out singles. The Concordia-St. Paul senior then induced a game-ending double play as the Rox stole a game for the second straight night. Previously Saint Cloud beat Willmar on a 10th-inning walk-off single.
Kent State Junior Luke Albright, a big league prospect who draws scouts to his starts, stuck out 12, to help lead St. Cloud (23-12) to the win. Albright has 38 strikeouts in 26 innings this summer, placing him among the league leaders. Albright’s previous outing on Aug. 7 (10 strikeouts in 5.1 no-hit innings) was touted by Rox broadcasters as one of the best individual performances in the club’s nine-year history.
After losing their first four in July to Highway 23 rivals, St. Cloud has now won seven consecutive games against Willmar. The teams meet in the season finale Thursday at Joe Faber Field.