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Huskies Can’t Hold On, Drop Opener in Mankato

The Duluth Huskies (15-17) lost an extra-inning, walk-off heartbreaker to the Mankato Moondogs (20-11) on Monday by a score of 5-4.

The MoonDogs secured their second playoff spot in as many years with a bases-loaded walk in the tenth off Joe Gonrowski (1-2). Victor Santana (1-2) took the loss while Mankato reliever Austin Bollinger (6-2) won his third straight decision.

Ryan Tapani (2-0) pitched six innings for the Huskies, allowing three unearned runs on four hits and one walk while striking out four to lower his team-best ERA to 1.72.

Both starters pitched solid outings through three, but in MoonDogs starter Dylan Jones (0-0) ran into trouble in the fourth by issuing a leadoff walk to Chase Strumpf, allowing a double to Kyle Hubbuch, and walking Rob Emery to load the bases. He was pulled for Matt Young, who hung a 3-1 changeup to Luke Roskam and watched it sail over the right-center field wall for Roskam’s seventh home run and first grand slam of the year. Young and his eventual replacement Bollinger were stellar other than that on the night, allowing just two hits and two walks through the next seven innings.

In the fifth, the MoonDogs struck back. Catcher C.J. Schaeffer reached on a dropped third strike, and with one out advanced to second when Alvaro Rubalcaba reached on an error by Huskies third baseman Jack Stronach. Daniel Amaral reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners, and Schaeffer completed his unconventional trip around the basepaths by scoring the first MoonDog run of the day on a wild pitch that also allowed Amaral to take second. With two down, Ethan Valdez found himself staring a full count in the face. Tapani’s putaway breaking ball hung a little too high in the zone and Valdez cranked it over the wall in left-center to pull his team within one.

That would be Tapani’s last inning of work. Colin Baumgard pitched a scoreless seventh, and Marcus Frederickson made his third appearance of the season in the eighth. With one out and Logan Busch on first via his second single of the day, Jake Shepski hit a blooper with a lot of topspin in between Chase Strumpf at second and Andrew Robinson in right. Because of the spin on the ball, when Robinson tried to field it on one hop, it darted under his glove and rolled halfway to the wall. Busch trucked it all the way home to tie the ballgame and Shepski slid into third with a triple. Frederickson bounced back and struck out Kyle Cuellar before being pulled for Victor Santana, who struck out Kenton Crews on three pitches, the last of which was an 89 mph fastball at the knees that Crews whiffed on.

The ninth inning and first half of the tenth saw both teams go down in order. In the bottom of the tenth, Victor Santana issued back-to-back walks to Amaral and Valdez. Joe Gonrowski came in to try and stop the bleeding and send the game to the eleventh. Instead, Logan Busch dropped a sacrifice bunt down the third baseline to move the runners up. With one out and Shepski one at-bat removed from his game-tying triple, Gonrowski opted to walk the right fielder. The bases were loaded for Cuellar, and Gonrowski walked him on four pitches to end the ballgame.

The whole league has the day off on Tuesday for the Major League Dreams Showcase in Madison. They’ll get back in action on Wednesday against Mankato at 7:05 p.m. to wrap up the road trip.