By Reece Hemmesch
Special to The Free Press
---- — MANKATO — The bats were definitely on fire Thursday night at Franklin Rogers Park as the MoonDogs held on for a 12-11 win over the St. Cloud Rox in Northwoods League baseball action.
The Rox took advantage of four MoonDog errors and totaled 17 hits, but every cry for a comeback was denied by Mankato’s offensive output.
The game appeared to be dominated by the MoonDogs early, but the Rox were resilient and scored eight runs in the final three innings to make things interesting at Franklin Rogers.
The MoonDogs put up seven runs in the first three innings, getting home runs in each of the three to put the squad up 7-3 early. Jonathan Rodriguez got the power surge going in the first with a three-run shot that just snuck inside the right-field foul pole for his second homer of the season.
After catcher Matt Wollenzin smacked a solo shot the opposite way to left field to make it 5-1 in the bottom of the second, Rodriguez played paddle ball off the scoreboard in the third for his second home run of the game.
The Rox added two more in the sixth to bring themselves into striking distance, but the long ball of the MoonDogs once again silenced the rally. This time it was Chase Simpson, and a two-run moon shot to right center to put the 'Dogs ahead 10-5.
Mankato starting pitcher Brock Dykxhoorn got through five innings on the mound, allowing six St. Cloud hits and three runs. Reliever Donovan Feenstra would take over the pitching duties in the sixth but was headed off the field in the seventh with two runners on and two out. That forced Jared Carkuff to come in to a pivotal situation, where the right-hander induced Adam Martin to ground out to end the inning.
As the MoonDogs let out a sigh of relief getting out of the jam, their worries were just beginning. The Rox finally broke through with a five-run, six-hit eighth inning to tie the game at 11 apiece.
First basemen Sam Twichell thought he had the MoonDogs back ahead with a towering shot down the right field line in the bottom of the eighth, but it was called foul. Twichell was ejected later after exchanging words with the base umpire as he grounded out for the second out of the inning.
Left fielder Zach Zehner walked the following at-bat and stole second, setting Rodrigez up for possibly his biggest hit of the night: a slapped single to left off St. Cloud reliever Jason Hoppe that was just enough to bring Zehner in and put the MoonDogs on top once again. Hoppe led the Minnesota State baseball team to the NCAA Division II finals earlier this spring.
Jess Amadee loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, but punched out the last batter of the game to give the MoonDogs a 12-11 victory and register his first win of the year.
The Rox scored in five innings during the game, but every inning that yielded a run for St. Cloud brought in runs for Mankato as well. The 'Dogs answered St. Cloud all night until the victory was complete.
Woody Woodward, Zach Zehner and Alex Polston paced Mankato with two hits apiece as every MoonDog in the starting lineup registered a hit and eight of the nine scored a run. The MoonDogs record now sits at 16-13.