By Joe Tischler
Special to The Free Press
---- — MANKATO — The Mankato MoonDogs' pitching staff was up and down during the first half of the Northwoods League season. One constant though has been Cameron Giannini.
Going into the second-half home opener against the St. Cloud Rox, the junior from Southern Mississippi led the MoonDogs in wins (four), strikeouts (36), and innings pitched (35.1). His 2.29 earned run average got even lower on Saturday as Giannini threw eight shutout innings, allowing just four hits while striking 10, as Mankato blanked St. Cloud 3-0 at Franklin Rogers Park. “Cam’s been awesome all year long,” Mankato manager Mike Orchard said. “He’s got a knack for throwing well on the weekends here at home. “The only thing is that first inning kind of throws him, but after that he gets in a groove where its nine-, 10-, 12-pitch innings.” That pattern was the case on again against the Rox. St. Cloud loaded the bases in the first inning, but Giannini was able to get the last two outs via strikeout to get out of the jam. “It takes me a little bit to get in a groove sometimes,” Giannini said. “I’d like to have a cleaner first inning, but fortunately, I’ve been able to settle down and work ahead after that.” Giannini certainly settled down after the first, not giving up a hit in five of the next seven innings. He even got four outs in the eighth inning after a batter reached base after striking out on a wild pitch. The only run the MoonDogs needed crossed the plate in the first. Timothy Arakawa led off with a single to center. Tim Colwell booted the ball, allowing Arakawa to go all the way to third. Two batters later, he scored on an RBI groundout by Jonathan Rodriguez. Mankato scored again in the sixth with a two-out rally. Alex Polston doubled to right and then came around to score on a single to center from Krysthian Leal. Arakawa singled and scored in the seventh with Quinnton Mack delivering a run-producing single to complete the scoring. Giannini improved to 5-1, lowering his ERA to 1.86. Through 43.1 innings pitched, he’s only given up 31 hits while striking out 46. He’s definitely proved himself as the ace of the staff. “I go out and try to compete every game,” he said. “If we’re coming off a loss, I try to get us back in the win column. I just try to work hard and usually good things happen.” Mankato improves to 2-1 in the second half of the Northwoods League season. The MoonDogs (19-19 overall) entertain St. Cloud again tonight for a 6:05 start at Franklin Rogers Park.