BISMARCK, ND – Before starting a string of 11 days without a game at Bismarck Municipal Ballpark, home of Dakota Community Bank and Trust Field, the Bismarck Larks treated their fans to what can only be described as a wild, interesting, and entertaining game.
The Larks were unable to silence the bats of the St. Cloud Rox in the high scoring affair as they fell to St. Cloud 15-9. The game provided plenty of excitement regardless of the final score.
St. Cloud jumped out to an early lead with a pair of runs in the first inning for the second straight game. Using four walks and just one hit, the Rox scored two runs off of Larks starter David Manasek. Manasek threw over 35 pitches in the first, forcing him to make an early exit.
Ryan Byrd came in to pitch for Manasek and worked a clean second inning. In the third, Byrd surrendered three St. Cloud runs, highlighted by a two-RBI double from Brad Mathiowetz. The double pushed the score to 5-0 in favor of the Rox.
In the fourth inning, Daniel Schneemann singled up the middle to bring home Shane Selman. The run added to the Rox lead, making it 6-0.
The Rox didn’t stop. They added two more runs and chased Byrd from the game in the fifth inning after making the score 8-0.
At this point, it appeared that the rout was on. Connor Hilburn relieved Byrd with two outs in the fifth. Michael Busch was the first batter he faced.
Busch laced a ball toward the right field corner, but Ryan Anderson made a spectacular diving play to save two more from scoring.
In the bottom half of the inning, Anderson led off with a single, the first hit the Larks managed off of Rox starter Robbie Palkert in the game. The Larks did not score in the inning, but it was the first signs of life from the home team.
Generally, an 8-0 score after five innings means the game might just be all but over. But again, the Larks reminded us all that “going down quietly” isn’t a part of Bismarck baseball.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Larks used two walks and a hit-by-pitch from Anthony DiMeglio to load the bases. With two outs, Newt Johnson hit a two-RBI double to left field, and Anderson immediately followed with a two-RBI triple to right-center field.
The hits were just the second and third hits of the game for the Larks, with two of the three belonging to Anderson. In just two batters, the Larks had cut the Rox lead in half, and the 8-4 ballgame seemed to be up for grabs.
The Rox responded and scored one run in the top of the seventh thanks to Busch’s sac fly to left to make the score was 9-4.
Bismarck threatened in the bottom half, showing some more life. Rox reliever John Matthews allowed a pair of walks and an infield single from Scooter Bynum, a play made possible by Philip Jacobson hustling to second to beat out a would-be fielder’s choice.
Matthews struck out Johnson to end the inning, but the Larks offense was trending up as we inched toward crunch time.
The Rox bats, however, stayed hot the whole game.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Rox exploded for six runs on four hits to extend their lead to 15-4. The Larks needed three pitchers to get out of the inning, and the Rox seemed to have put the game away for good.
Again, at the time, most fans probably thought the game to be over. But again, the Larks did not go down without a fight.
Joe Calamita came in to pitch the eighth inning for the Rox. Calamita allowed three singles to load the bases, then hit Mitch Gallagher with a pitch to push a run across and make the score 15-5.
Next up was Austin Paschke, who played his final game for the Larks on Monday night. Paschke is due back at Faulkner University the first week of August, and will use the rest of his summer to give his body a break.
Paschke unleashed a towering grand slam to right field to finish his season with the Larks in dramatic fashion. He was greeted to hugs from his teammates as he crossed home and made his way back to the dugout.
The blast made the score 15-9 and kept any chance of a miraculous comeback alive.
In the ninth, Wyatt Ulrich made an unbelieveable leaping catch at the wall in left field to rob Keaton Kringlen of an extra-base hit and potentially a home run. The exciting plays just kept on coming.
Unfortunately, Ulrich’s play was the final bright spot on the night for the Larks. The team could not move the line along in the ninth and they fell to the Rox 15-9.
Robbie Palkert was the winning pitcher. In his five innings, he allowed zero runs on just one hit while walking three and striking out five.
Manasek got the loss after his short outing. He walked four and allowed two earned runs in his lone inning of work.
Moving forward, the Larks (18-23 overall, 2-4 second half) will have their work cut out for them on the upcoming six-game road trip. Paschke is heading home, and a handful of players will not make the trip to Thunder Bay because they do not have passports necessary to cross the border.
On top of that, Quinn Irey is out until after the All-Star break after taking a foul ball off his throwing hand, and Luke Horanski’s status is uncertain as he battles through an illness. That leaves third-string catcher Damian Melis to take over the full-time catching duties for the next week or so. Melis went 1-5 in the St. Cloud series with two walks and two runs scored.
The Larks will be short-handed next week, and a lot of things are uncertain at this point, but we do know one thing. These guys will not go down without putting up a fight.
Game one of two in Duluth is set for 6:35 pm tomorrow night at Wade Stadium. The Larks will play two games in Duluth before heading to Thunder Bay for a four game set to finish off the road trip before the All-Star game festivities begin in Wausau, Wisconsin.
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The Bismarck Larks are apart of the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 170 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. For more information, visit www.northwoodsleague.com or download the Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play