By Joe Tischler Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — Thursday was only Josh Fuentes’ fifth game in a Mankato MoonDogs uniform and his first game in front of the home fans at Franklin Rogers Park.
The freshman from Saddleback College has added a spark to the MoonDogs lineup and made a good first impression to the Mankato fans as he hit a 3-run home run in his initial Mankato at-bat. The blow helped the MoonDogs defeat Willmar 10-7 in the first game of a pair of 7-inning contests in Northwoods League baseball action.
“I always like to bring a little energy to the team,” said Fuentes. “Whether it’s me or it’s anybody else, I’m just glad we’re all hitting and we’re all gelling and playing really well.”
The MoonDogs countered two Willmar first-inning runs in a big way by scoring six in their half of the first.
Timothy Arakawa and Matt Jones led with with a walk and single, respectively. Arakawa came home on an RBI groundout from Chase Simpson. Zack Zehner singled moving Jones to third before Fuentes’ big 3-run blast.
“He (Fuentes) has been a great addition,” said Mankato manager Mike Orchard. “He’s been great at short for us and also swinging the bat well with a 3-run home run.”
Mankato didn’t stop swinging the bats in the first. Quinnton Mack walked and stole second. Jonathan Rodriguez brought him home with a single to right. Rodriguez moved to third on a double to center by Woody Woodward and later scored on an RBI groundout from Matt Wollenzin.
“Coming into the dugout down two runs is not always good,” said Fuentes. “The lead off guy gets on, the next guy gets on, we rally with our bats and it becomes a big momentum shift.”
Fuentes went 2-for-4 in his home debut with a run and 3 RBIs. Rodriguez was 2-for-2 with two runs scored and an RBI and Woodward went 2-for-3.
The MoonDogs put together another multi-run inning in the fourth. The big hit came off the bat of Simpson who delivered a triple down the right field line, scoring Jones as part of a 3-run frame that put Mankato ahead 10-3.
The Stingers rallied though, cutting the deficit to 10-7 in the sixth. With bases loaded and two outs, Jess Amedee came on in relief and struck out Zack Tillery looking to end the threat.
Mankato trailed Willmar 5-0 in the fourth inning of the second game when the paper went to press.
The first-game win put Mankato two games over .500 for the season at 12-10. The 'Dogs are currently in fourth place in the North Division of the NWL behind Waterloo (15-7), Willmar (15-7) and Rochester (14-9).
In the South Divison the Lakeshore Chinooks and La Crosse Loggers are tied for first with records of 15-8. Madison is in third place at 12-8.
Mankato's five-game series with the Stingers continues when the teams travel to Willmar for a single games today and Saturday and then return to Mankato for two games Sunday beginning at 6:05 p.m.