MANKATO — MANKATO--A record of number of dogs roamed Franklin Rogers Park Tuesday for the team's annual Bark in the Park Night; the pooches were treated to a long evening of hits, walks, hit batters, pitching changes and runs.
Though never seriously in doubt, the outcome wasn't revealed until past the three-hour mark as the Mankato MoonDogs' three-inning burst of runs proved enough to survive a late Willmar rally in a 9-4 win in the first of a three-game Northwoods League series.
"The game kind of changed after we put up those early runs," Mankato manager Mike Orchard. "We might've left some more runs on the board, but today was probably the best we've hit all season."
The MoonDogs (8-6) got to Willmar starter Zack Tillery early and often, driving the right-hander out of the game after only three innings. After a scoreless first, Tim Lynch led off the second inning with a slap single down the left-field line, advancing to second on a fielding error by Willmar's Colton Bottomley.
Jake Ellison followed with a single and, after Lynch scored, Jonathan Rodriguez brought Ellison home with an RBI grounder. With two outs, Ryan Rosthenhausler shot a double into the right-center gap, scoring Ellison and giving Mankato a 2-0 cushion.
The MoonDogs repeated the script in the third, when singles by Zach Zehner and Ellison and another error by Bottomley led to a pair of runs and a 4-0 lead for Mankato starter Cameron Giannnini.
"We hit really well against (Tillery)," Ellison said. "Once you get going like that, running the bases and hitting, it's contagious."
Willmar reliever Bradley Emmery fared even worse in his one inning of relief. The MoonDogs battered the southpaw with five hits, including three doubles. Ellison's added his third hit, a 2-RBI double to the left-center wall, and later scored on a passed ball to complete a five-run fourth inning and increase the lead to 9-0.