The Mankato MoonDogs were looking for its first win of the Northwoods League second half going into Friday’s game against Rochester.
With Mankato’s berth to the postseason clinched earlier this week by way of a first-place finish in the NWL first-half standings, the MoonDogs couldn’t get complacent.
“Everything you do from chess and checkers to playing Clue or Life, you always want to win,” said MoonDogs manager Mike Orchard. “It doesn’t matter what you do, you have to do it to win.”
The MoonDogs drew even with a 5-4 win over the Honkers Friday at Franklin Rogers Park. Mankato No. 5-hitter Sam Lind drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to end the game.
“It’s important to keep winning because that’s going to push us into the playoffs,” Lind said. “We have over 30 games left and you always want to play well.”
The MoonDogs improved to 1-1 in the second half and 23-11 overall.
Rochester jumped on the board in the first inning when Johnny Coy homered over the left-field wall to give the Honkers a 1-0 lead. James McDonald scored from third base on a fielder’s choice to tie the game in the bottom half.
After Rochester scored a run in the top of the second, Chris Ross tied the game for Mankato when he trotted home on a four-pitch walk to Joe Loftus.
The first two innings took a little over an hour because of eight combined walks, 24 combined plate appearances and 52 pitches thrown by each starter.
“It was awful,” Orchard said. “The game was slow. It wasn’t fun for the fans to watch and wasn’t fun for us.”
The Honkers took another lead with a run in the fifth but the MoonDogs answered in the sixth. James Roberts led off with a single and scored on a passed ball. Shaun Cooper singled in Ross for his NWL-leading 32nd RBI.
The Mankato bullpen preserved the lead into the ninth inning before Orchard gave the ball to interim closer Patrick Goelz, who struck his first batter out but allowed a single to the next batter, Coy. Brett Hambright’s single moved Coy over to third base to put runners on the corners with two outs.
With two strikes on Davy Wright, Goelz flinched while in the stretch, the umpire called a balk and Coy trotted home to eventually send the game to the bottom of the ninth.
“He flinched and he knew he flinched,” Orchard said. “Pat will be fine in that role.”
Goelz improved his record to 3-0 with the win.
McDonald walked to start the bottom of the ninth, Cooper was hit in the leg and Loftus hit a bloop single to left that loaded the bases. That brought up Lind, who already had two singles, with no outs.
He loaded the count, fouled off five pitches and watched a 3-2 pitch miss the strike zone outside to bring in McDonald for the winning run.
“I was trying to get a ball in the air, and I was letting the ball get deep and that’s why I kept fouling them off,” Lind said. “I was lucky enough that last ball was off the plate.”
The MoonDogs open a three-game series with Alexandria at 6:05 p.m. tonight and travel to Thunder Bay for a three-game set Tuesday before they return home to play Willmar Friday.
“Everyone has to want to win and play for the name on the front of the jersey,” Cooper said.