St. Cloud had the power stroke going Wednesday night at Bismarck Municipal Ballpark.
The Rox had six extra-base hits, including three home runs, in their 7-4 win over the Bismarck Larks.
Landon Stephens launched two home runs and Ryan Weisenberger blasted a three-run shot for the Rox, who dropped the first-place Larks to 10-6.
“It felt good, I’ve been struggling a little bit, so it felt good to contribute tonight,” said Stephens who plays at Miami (Ohio). “Just trying to slow the game down a little bit and get back on track was what it was all about tonight. They have a good ball club over there so we’re happy to get a win here.”
The Rox got the game off to a loud start.
With two outs and a man on in the bottom of the first, Stephens launched a no-doubter to left field for an early 2-0 lead.
They weren’t done with the long ball, though.
After two singles to start the second, 2-hole hitter Ryan Weisenberger lifted a towering drive to left field that didn’t land until it was over the fence and a 5-0 St. Cloud advantage.
Following a strikeout, Stephens was up again and whistled a line drive to left that cleared the fence for his second home run of the game, and of the season. The St. Cloud third baseman from Miami (Ohio) entered the game hitting .209.
“This hasn’t been the start I was hoping for, or the team was hoping for, but we’re starting to swing the bats better, get a little hotter and I think we’re going in the right direction,” Stephens said.
Down 6-0, the Larks cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the third.
Ripken Reyes (single) and Kyle Stevens (double) delivered run-scoring hits after Connor Perry singled and Matthew Warkentin doubled to open the frame. Later, Michael Farnell flied out to right field to bring home Reyes with the third and final run of the inning.
The Larks scratched within two runs in the sixth. Chase Coker reached on a bad-hop double. One batter later Brandon Barna’s groundout to third scored Coker from third to make it 6-4.
“I’m not ashamed to lose to those guys, that’s a good team over there,” Larks manager Sean Repay said. “I don’t think we played our best baseball tonight. Obviously, we got behind early and had a couple miscues on the bases. If that doesn’t happen, who knows maybe we get a couple runs early, but that happens. Our guys will bounce back. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
Danny Kuhn and Mathew Munden gave the Larks strong relief work on the mound, allowing just one run over six innings after starter Koby Bishop was knocked out in the top of the third.
“Their manager (Al Newman) gave us I thought a really nice compliment about our bullpen and our team in general,” Repay said. “That means a lot coming from him and from the Rox. That’s a team with a couple of championships and a ton of success. It’s fun to be out there competing with those guys.”
Coker and Reyes each had two hits for the Larks, who hit the road for two games at Rochester and La Crosse before the first off day of the season on Monday. The roster also was set on Wednesday.
“There will be changes depending on injuries and innings and stuff like that, but the roster out there tonight is what we’ll go forward with,” Repay said. “We feel good about this team and what’s still ahead of us.”
Hendry Rodriguez starts on the mound tonight as the Larks begin a four-game road trip at Rochester. … Attendance was 1,952, the Larks’ fifth sellout of the season. … … The Larks had baserunners picked off in the first (Reyes) and second innings (Coker). … St. Cloud is managed by Al Newman, who played on both Minnesota Twins World Series teams in 1987 and 1991. Newman was drafted four times – never lower than the third round. In 1981 he was a first-round pick, No. 12 overall, by the Montreal Expos. … St. Cloud has five players from the NSIC on their roster, including starting pitcher Kyle Boser from St. Cloud State. … Rox reliever Will Warren hit 92 mph on the gun in the seventh inning.