A SPECIAL TRIBUTE WAS HELD FOR THE LATE RON THOMAS prior to the Ortonville Rox game against Clinton on Sunday, July 17. The Rox team presented Ron’s family with two framed jerseys as well as flowers. Pictured from left to right are Ron’s wife Lynn, sons Jim and John, daughter-in-law Kelsie, grandson Tucker, brother-in-law Les Kvidera and sister DeAnn (Thomas) Kvidera. Ron passed away on Feb. 7 after managing the Rox since 2006.


Rox to enter Region 9C Tourney against Dumont Sat.

By Chris Doney


The week of July 15-17 was the final weekend of the 2016 Land O’ Ducks regular season. The Rox faced Chokio and Clinton, two of the top teams in the league.  On Saturday,  July 16, the Rox headed to Chokio to take on the Coyotes in a game with playoff implications for both teams.  The Rox (10-1) were trying to stay ahead of the Morris Eagles (11-1) as the top seed.  Meanwhile, the Coyotes (9-3) were doing their best to end the season in front of Clinton (9-2). A win for Chokio would mean a bye week and an automatic bid to the region tournament. 

As the Rox and Coyotes got underway, thunderstorms rolling through western Minnesota put the game into suspension with the Rox leading 1-0 in the bottom half of the second inning.  Chance Haugen had scored the lone run in the top of the second inning.  The game was resumed to Sunday at 1 p.m. on the Dumont Saints home field since Chokio’s field was presumably flooded. Both starting pitchers from Saturday, Nick Hervin for Chokio and Curt Schake for Ortonville, returned to the mound to resume the contest on Sunday. 

In the bottom of the third inning Chokio tied the game 1-1 with the help of a Rox fielding error. The Coyotes would continue their scoring in the fourth inning as they suddenly began making solid contact with Schake’s pitches.  After three runs on four hits and a walk, Tony Schake was brought in for relief.  He pitched four and a third innings allowing no runs and only one hit. 

The Coyotes remained ahead 4-1, with no threat from the Rox until the top of the eighth inning when Chris Doney hit a solo home run over the left field fence, to bring the Rox within two. In the top of the ninth inning the Rox threatened to tie the game by putting runners on second and third base, with only one out.  Unfortunately, the Rox were unable to produce any further offense against Hervin. The final two outs were recorded without another run scoring.  Hervin gained the 4-2 complete game win allowing, only six hits and two free passes.

The now 10-2 Rox were not allowed any time to contemplate the loss as they needed to shift their focus to the second matchup in Ortonville against Clinton (9-3).  With the loss to Chokio, the Clinton game became monumental.  A loss to Clinton would send the Rox to the league tournament to battle Dumont, Hancock and Appleton.

As many readers know, the Rox late manager Ron Thomas passed away on Feb. 7.  Although tragic, it was not entirely unforeseen, as those close to Ron knew first hand the numerous, difficult battles that took place between Ron and complications secondary to a congenital heart condition.  These battles lasted Ron’s entire lifetime and until the end of December it looked as if Ron was going to win another battle and join the Rox for the 2016 season.  Ron managed the Rox for nearly 10 seasons beginning in 2006, the past 10 years have contained many of the most winning seasons in Rox history.  Preceding the final 2016 home game against Clinton the Rox planned a ceremony to recognize Ron and his significance to the Rox.  The tribute began with the guests of honor, the Thomas family, taking the mound as Matt Fellows spoke about Ron and the pivotal role he played in taking the Rox, from a team of kids and immature young adults, scratching out the occasional win in 2005, to a team of men perennially fighting for a state tournament appearance. 

As Fellows’ speech concluded Ron’s number 35 was retired. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Jim and John Thomas to Bruce and Chris Doney.  Following the first pitch was a presentation of flowers to Lynn Thomas and DeAnn Thomas-Kvidera by Chris Fellows and Riley Sammon and a presentation of Ron’s game worn jerseys enclosed in display cases to Jim and John by Joe Fuller and Curt Schake.  It was an emotionally difficult, but touching moment as the ceremony closed with the Thomas family being consoled by many Rox players and fans.   

As Ron would have had it, the game was played and won by the Rox, 7-4.  Maybe not exactly as he would have had it...The late manager may have voiced some complaints regarding the lack of perfect defense and inability to score any of the first five runners in scoring position.  Not to say it was an error filled game, but a few well hit balls seemed to elude the gloves of the Rox defense. 

Going into the bottom of the seventh inning the Rox were trailing the Cards 4-1.  Joe Fuller had scored the Rox lone run in the sixth inning.  Chris Fellows, Rox starting pitcher threw six and one third innings giving up four runs, only one earned, on six hits.  In the bottom of the seventh the Rox finally took advantage of their scoring opportunities. With one out, Riley Sammon reached on a fielding error.  John Thomas and Fellows followed with walks.  Chris Doney was hit by a pitch scoring Sammon. Jeff Watson and Joe Fuller connected on back to back hits followed by a Chance Haugen double.  In all, the Rox scored six straight runs to take a 7-4 lead into the eighth inning. 

A three run lead was more than enough for Tony Schake who came in for his second relief appearance of the day. He pitched well for two and a third innings, with two outs in the ninth he lost command and walked three of four batters. With the bases loaded and tying runner on first Schake handed the ball to Fuller. Fuller pitched the final out of the game getting the save, with the win going to Schake.

The weekend split cost the Rox (11-2) the number one seed going into the 9C Region Tournament, but it was enough to the Rox as an automatic qualifier and the two seed. The Rox will be in action at the Dumont Saints home field in Wheaton on Saturday, July 30 at 5 p.m. vs. the Madison Mallards.

 
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