Andrew Pinckney drove in six runs Monday night at Joe Faber Field
Otto Kemp has been the best hitter on the best Northwoods League team all summer, so it’s fitting he was at the plate when the league-clinching run scored Tuesday night in central Minnesota.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Easton Waterman, who’s hitting nearly .400 since joining the St. Cloud Rox nine days ago, reached first on his third hit of the evening. He advanced to second on a perfect Peter Abinanti bunt, then after two walks, the bases were loaded for Kemp. Rochester closer Ben Grable promptly balked in the winning run in front of a near sell-out crowd of 1,600.
Earlier, in his fifth start of 2021, Storm Hierholzer allowed a home run to lead off the game, then the TCU right-hander settled in for 4.2 innings with two runs allowed and eight strikeouts. The Rox bullpen recorded the final 13 outs without allowing a run.
Storm Hierholzer on the mound Tuesday night in St. Cloud
Tuesday’s clincher was preceded by a Monday night massacre. Andrew Pinckney's three-run triple and three-run home run led to a 15-0 shellacking of Rochester. The six RBI were a career-best game for the University of Alabama star.
Nate Peterson’s third start of the season was easily his best, too. The lefty from the University of Illinois-Chicago finished his six frames allowing no runs while punching out 12.
St. Cloud began the 2021 season 2-4. That seems like ancient history.
The team won 41 of 50 from June 8-Aug. 1, and after winning for the eighth time in eight tries against Rochester, clinched home field for as long as they survive next week’s playoffs.
The Rox (48-16) can tie the franchise record for wins tomorrow at Bismarck and also post the best-ever Northwoods League record with three wins in their final four games.
St. Cloud has now won 82% of home games (28-6) this summer at Joe Faber Field and will open the playoffs Sunday against the Mankato MoonDogs (43-21).