By Joe Tischler
Special to The Free Press
---- — With a tough stretch coming up, it was important for the Mankato MoonDogs to complete the 3-game sweep against the Rochester Honkers, a team that had won only one game in the Northwoods League second half.
The teams were tied 2-2 in the 13th inning when this edition of the paper went to press.
Early on, it looked like the MoonDogs would easily get their sweep. Their first three batters: Timothy Arakawa, Hibraim Cordova, and Chase Simpson all singled to lead off the first with Simpson driving in Arakawa on a base hit to left. That was all they scored as Cordova was left stranded on third.
Bryan Bonnell got the start and went three innings. Rochester tied the game in the second. Tyler Baker led off with a double to right. Two batters later, Caleb Dugas knocked him in with a single to center.
Rochester took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Max Murphy drilled a home run deep over the wall in left center field off Ryan Quick.
Mankato countered in its half of the sixth. Quinnton Mack started the inning with a single to short. Woody Woodward followed with a single to center and Matt Wollenzin reached on an error, loading the bases with nobody out.
Alex Polston then got an RBI b7 hitting into a fielder’s choice, scoring Mack. Polston was caught stealing a short time later and Arakawa lined to short to end the threat.
Pitching was dominant at Franklin Rogers Park as three Honkers’ pitchers combined to strikeout 14 MoonDogs through 11 innings. Five Mankato hurlers joined to send down eight Rochester hitters.
The important stretch that lies ahead for the MoonDogs involves a pair of 3-game series against teams ahead of them in the standings.
The stretch begins at Willmar tonight, a team that came into Thursday’s night action two-and-a-half games ahead of Mankato in the overall standings. First place Waterloo awaits the MoonDogs after the Willmar series. The Bucks won the first half Northern Division title and leads the second half as well.
The second game of the Willmar series will be Saturday night at Franklin Rogers Park with a first pitch set for 6:05 p.m.
In other Northwoods League news Thursday, the Eau Claire Express front office announced additional details for the upcoming Northwoods League All-Star event at Carson Park in Eau Claire. This will mark the second time Eau Claire has been the host city for the All-Star festivities after being selected to host the 2010 game.
Festivities will include a banquet, fan fest, home run derby and the game itself.
The two-day event kicks off Monday with a banquet to honor this year’s all-star players. The dinner will be held at The Plaza Hotel & Suites in Eau Claire and will feature two-time World Series Champion and former Minnesota Twins Manager Tom Kelly as the guest speaker. The event begins at 6 p.m.
Day 2 begins with the Adecco Fan Fest, to be held on the Fan Deck at Carson Park on Tuesday. This will be an opportunity for fans to come out and meet the all-stars, get autographs and enjoy entertainment by the Midwest Dueling Pianos.
The Fan Fest begins at 4 p.m. and runs until 5:45 p.m. Food and beverages will be sold on the Fan Deck during the event. A game ticket is required for admittance but will grant the holder access to Carson Park for the remainder of the day’s activities.
The Marshfield Clinic Home Run Derby starts at 6 p.m. and will include eight participants, all being among the Northwoods League leaders in home runs. The derby will feature three rounds, with 10 outs per round, to determine the champion.
The All-Star Game starts at 7:35 p.m. A fireworks show will follow the game.