WATERLOO — The 2018 Northwoods League came to a close for the Waterloo Bucks Sunday, and the outcome was a mirror finish of the way the season has gone for the locals.
The Bucks grabbed an early 2-0 lead but could not hold on as they dropped a 6-4 decision to the Rochester Honkers at Riverfront Stadium.
“Today was what our season has been about,” Bucks manager J.D. Eaton said. “We play teams tough but always seem to give up that one inning. Our record may not be good (20-52), but if you look at each game, we won games we probably shouldn’t have, and lost games, we should have won.
“We have played good ball lately and we found out the guys that really wanted to be here. Guys that were willing to give it their all each game.”
Waterloo led 2-0 lead through four innings, but the big inning Eaton referred to came in the top of the fifth.
With two Honkers on the base paths, Rochester first baseman Alex McGarry bombed a shot out to left-center field that easily cleared the wall for a three-run home run and a 3-2 lead.
The sixth inning was not much better as back-to-back doubles by Logan Denholm and Casey Dunlap increased the visitors lead to 5-2.
The Bucks put together a rally in the eighth as Myles Emmerson scored, then Carmen Sclafani was awarded home after pitcher Michael Brandt balked, and suddenly the Bucks were back in it, trailing 5-4 with one inning left to get it done.
“I thought we could get it done, but like so many times this year it just did not happen,” Louisville freshman and Cedar Rapids native Trey Leonard said. “We would get something going but then not get the run in or we cannot get the last out to help our pitchers.
“This has definitely been a learning experience and I would not trade it for anything. I have made life-long relationships with these guys on the team and friends that you want to have at a wedding or a family event. What we have went through this year will help us prepare for college and adapt to situations we see there.”
The Honkers’ Nate Webb put an exclamation point on the Bucks season as he blasted a solo home run in the top of the ninth for the final margin.
With the Bucks organization now looking toward the 2019 season, a lot of questions will need to be answered in preparation for a busy campaign ahead. Not only does an assessment of players and coaches need to be address, the Bucks will also be gearing up as they will host the 2019 Northwoods League All-Star Game next July.
“It’s really exciting but yet a lot of things are up in the air right now,” Eaton said. “If given the opportunity I would love to come back here to Waterloo. This is really my first experience with this and it has been quite pleasant. The organization is sound and the fans here are great. Their support is so awesome you just could not ask for any more.”
It will be a busy few months ahead as the Bucks will be looking at the roster for stars to resign.
Leonard would like to have his name on that list.
“It would be fun to come back and show what we can really do,” said Leonard. “I would like the opportunity to come back and play for these great fans.”
The fans feel the same way about Leonard as he was voted as the fan favorite for the season.
“I loved it when I heard my name called,” Leonard said of the announcement before the game. “It means that the parents in the stands look at me as a positive role model for their children, and I feel like I need to play up to that role.”
Rochester 6, Waterloo 4
Rochester 000 032 001—6 12 0
Waterloo 001 100 020—4 10 0
Zak Devermann, Ryan Dorney (7), Michael Brandt (8), Joshua Ibarra (9) and Logan Denholm. Robert Reaser, Joshua Culliver (7), Eric Reardon (9) and Myles Emmerson. WP—Devermann (5-4). LP—Reaser (2-2). HR—Alex McGarry (R), Nate Webb (R). 2B—Michael Michalak (R), Logan Denholm 2 (R), Casey Dunlap (R).