By Drew Lyon Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — MANKATO — In their lone home matinee game of the season, the Mankato MoonDogs rewarded their fans with ample time to bask in the sunshine and witness a record-setting inning.
After falling a single run short of an epic eight-run, ninth-inning comeback Monday to Thunder Bay, the MoonDogs scored 11 runs in the fifth inning en route to a 17-10 win Tuesday at Franklin Rogers Park. The team set a club record for most runs in an inning.
"During a 70-game season, you see a lot of things," Mankato manager Mike Orchard said. "It was good, though. When something that happens all of the sudden, you take what you can get and hopefully boost some stats."
Backed by boisterous bleacher "Let's go MoonDogs!" chants, Mankato broke a 3-2 lead wide open in the fifth. In what seemed like a endless stream of runners crossing the plate, the MoonDogs strung together eight hits, translating into 11 runs and a 17-4 lead. After seven runs had already scored, John Michael Twichell put the exclamation point on the inning with a grand slam over the right field wall.
"I was just trying to get a hit," said Twichell, a Texas native who recently returned for his second season with the MoonDogs.
"Offensively, he's a huge difference-maker for us," Orchard said.
After two scoreless frames, Mankato's Alex Poston led off the third with a single to right field off Thunder Bay starter Chris Kerwood. Timothy Arakawa followed with a walk, and Josh Fuentes' sacrifice bunt was dropped by Thunder Bay first baseman Tyler Duplantis. Poston scored on the error, and Arakawa later advanced home on Chase Simposon's double play groundout to put Mankato ahead 2-0.
The Border Cats tied the game in the fourth after MoonDogs southpaw Sam Clay walked the bases loaded. With one and the count full, Clay walked Joey Hawkins to bring home Philip Lyons. Clay, who struck out five batters but allowed six walks, was then relieved by Bryan Bonnell. His first batter, Cory Kay, hit a bleeder between second and third, scoring Alex Baustita. But Bonnell prevented further damage, striking out consecutive batters to maintain a 2-2 tie.
Mankato regained a 3-2 advantage after designated hitter Matt Wollenzin's infield single led to an RBI single from catcher Matt Jones.
Bonnell fought out of a jam in the fifth, after two walks and a fielding error by Bonnell loaded the bases with one out. But Dylan Goodwin hit a tailor-made double play to Fuentes to preserve the lead.
"That was the biggest point of the game," Orchard said. "The biggest out of the game. That, to me, could've swung the game either way."
The next time the MoonDogs defense hit the field in the top of the sixth, the lead had ballooned to 12 runs. Mankato added more runs in the sixth and seven innings, capped by solo home runs from Jones and Twichell in the seventh.
Kerwood allowed nine runs in four innings in the loss. Ryan Quick, Zach Hobbs, Trey Higgenbotham and Jesse Harbin all pitched in relief for Mankato. The Border Cats attempted their own comeback in the eighth inning, scoring six runs, including a grand slam from Jacob Rogers.
"Nothing surprises me in baseball," Orchard said. "Every game is different."
After an off-day, the MoonDogs (15-13) continue their homestand Thursday vs. St. Cloud.