MANKATO — The Mankato MoonDogs were unable to complete a ninth-inning comeback, falling to the Madison Mallards 5-4 Thursday night, ending the Northwoods League baseball game with the go-ahead run at second base.
Mankato led most of the matchup at Franklin Rogers Park until Madison broke through in the eighth inning off a three-run homer from right fielder Drew Weeks to go ahead 5-2.
Chase Simpson made the start on the mound for the MoonDogs. Simpson had thrown just two innings before last night and had not started a game this season but was thrust into the starting role due to a depleted bullpen, moving from his regular spot in the lineup.
Simpson, Donovan Feenstra and Julian Esquibel pieced together the first seven innings for Mankato, allowing just one run on four hits.
Madison starting pitcher Cam Verbeke was dominant in his six innings, allowing five hits and retiring 10 straight batters from the first through fourth innings. The MoonDogs registered their first run in the first off an RBI single from Jonathan Rodriguez but would go quiet until a wild fifth inning yielded another.
The inning began with a double from catcher Matt Wollenzin, followed by a groundout to second from Josh Fuentes to advance Wollenzin to third. Nine-hitter Alex Polston put down a safety squeeze bunt toward first baseman Jeff Zahn, who attempted to pick it up, tag the runner and nail Wollenzin at home.
Zahn whiffed at the tag on Polston and failed to get Wollenzin at home, bringing in the second run of the game for the MoonDogs. Though the tag was missed, the home plate umpire originally called Polston out, only to reverse the call seconds later, which forced Madison manager Donnie Scott to come argue the call, ultimately getting ejected.
The Mallards finally tallied their first run the following inning after two walks from Feenstra and an error from Fuentes loaded the bases with one out. From there Esquibel came in and hit the first batter he faced to bring in a run. He then forced a double play to end the inning with the score at 2-1.
The score remained the same until Madison’s comeback eighth inning. Reliever Jordan DePonte allowed a walk and a hit to begin the inning before Weeks sent a bullet over the left center field fence for his team-leading eighth home run of the season. DePonte allowed another run off an RBI triple from Zahn.
The MoonDogs had a chance for a rebuttal in the ninth inning as Madison reliever Kristian Calibuso walked the bases loaded with two outs, setting up a single to right center from Tim Arakawa that brought in two runs and put the winning run in scoring position. Calibuso was then relieved of his duties as the Mallards brought in Danny Sullivan for the final out, where he struck out Quinnton Mack to end the game and deny the MoonDogs some late-inning fireworks.
The MoonDogs face Madison tonight in the conclusion of the series before heading to St. Cloud on Saturday to end the regular season with a two games there.