Rox Return Home As Northwoods League Champions
The St. Cloud Rox returned home from Battle Creek Sunday morning to a large group of fans celebrating their championship at the MAC. The Rox defeated the Battle Creek Bombers Saturday night to capture their first Northwoods League championship.
"I like to say the players brought back the championship and I just enjoyed the ride," manager Augie Rodriguez said.
The Rox won the first half North Division title this year to clinch a playoff spot, then defeated Willmar and Mankato in one-game playoffs to secure a spot in the Summer Collegiate World Series.
St. Cloud catcher Ricardo Sanchez had an outstanding postseason, hitting .467 (7-15) with a home run and a team-high five runs batted in. Sanchez's single with two outs in the top of the ninth in the North Division championship against Mankato tied the game, and he hit the game-winning home run in game one of the World Series.
"That at-bat in Mankato, 3-2 count, I knew the game was in my hands," Sanchez said. "But I have to say, we win as a team and it was a whole team effort."
The Rox topped Battle Creek 7-5 in the first game of the best-of-three series at Joe Faber Field Thursday night, then got on the bus for the 13 hour ride to Michigan.
St. Cloud suffered an extra-inning setback on Friday night, forcing a deciding game three on Saturday night. Rox coach Al Newman gave a speech on the bus on the way to game three that inspired the players to a 5-3 win and a NWL title.
"We were sitting on the bus and I grabbed the microphone," Newman said. "I said hey look when (the Twins) came back from both World Series road trips we were down 3-2, so I said we are 1-1 going into game three... why not us?"
Rox outfielder Matt Tarantino was named co-MVP of the team this year along with pitcher Aaron Rozek. He said that Newman's speech helped move the team's focus to game three.
"After the loss, Al got on the mic and told us (Friday) was over," Tarantino said. "If we win, we were going home and if we lose we're going home so... we might as well win."
Little Falls native and SCSU Husky Kyle Boser was a late addition to the team in early June and ended up playing a starring role throughout the season, including two scoreless outings in the playoffs.
"It was very, very fun," Boser said. "Coming into the season I didn't expect to even be in the starting rotation and to get into the World Series and get a start was super exciting."
The Rox returned home to the MAC Sunday morning to a hero's welcome, with dozens of fans packing the parking lot to greet the bus.
"That's why we do it- to represent the city of St. Cloud," Rodriguez said. "It's a blessing to bring it home to the city of St. Cloud."
Team president Scott Schreiner made the trip to St. Cloud with the team on the bus and was thrilled with the turnout to welcome the team home.
"It's awesome to see all the people here to greet the guys when they got back," Schreiner said. "This year the fan support has been fantastic and it is great to represent the city of St. Cloud."