MANKATO, MN – The Larks made things interesting with two runs in the ninth inning, but it was too little too late against the Mankato MoonDogs.
The MoonDogs defeated the Larks by a score of 6-3 at Franklin Rogers Field after their bats finally caught fire again after their offense was held stagnant during the two game set in Bismarck.
In Bismarck, the MoonDogs only managed one run over the course of two games, but they wasted no time finding a rhythm Friday night. Bismarck starter Ryan Byrd attacked MoonDog hitters with strikes all game long, but he left a couple of pitches up too high in the zone.
The MoonDogs took advantage.
In the top of their first, Kyle Cuellar came around to score on a Zac Wiley RBI single to give the MoonDogs an early 1-0 lead.
Mankato never looked back.
The MoonDogs added another run in the third when Ethan Valdez belted his second home run of the season over the left field wall, improving the MoonDog lead to 2-0.
Valdez’s blast opened the floodgates for the fourth inning when Jake Shepski and Ryan Kreidler hit back-to-back home runs to increase the lead to 5-0.
In the fifth, Valdez tripled to lead off the inning and would score on a Toby Hanson single to make it 6-0.
Byrd finished after five innings of work. He allowed six earned runs on seven base hits while striking out three. He only walked three hitters during his outing.
Connor Hilburn came on in relief and ate up three innings of work to save the Larks bullpen from having to use too many arms. The Lakeland University starter tired toward the end of his longest outing as a Lark, but he kept the game close and gave his team a chance to come back.
For the first six innings, Mankato starter Andy Fisher kept Bismarck hitters off balance and off of the base paths. The Larks were unable to figure out Fisher’s hard-breaking curveball as they only managed two hits in Fisher’s six innings of work.
Fisher held the Larks scoreless for the first six innings of the ballgame.
The Larks chipped into the MoonDog lead late in the ballgame, starting in the seventh inning. After loading the bases, Connor Perry, the newcomer from Lackawanna Community College and future Pittsburgh Panther, was hit by a pitch to bring Newt Johnson across to make it a 6-1 ballgame.
In the ninth, the Larks loaded the bases with no outs to give the hometown crowd a scare. Wyatt Ulrich walked to score Johnson, which prompted the MoonDogs to put Naithen Dewsnap in for TJ Satterly.
Gallagher hit a sacrifice fly to score Waldek and pull the Larks to within three, but Dewsnap would get Austin Paschke to ground out to second base to end the late Bismarck threat.
Fisher was the winning pitcher of record in this one. He finished with six innings pitched, zero runs allowed, just two hits, and seven strikeouts.
Byrd was saddled with the loss after he went five innings and allowed six earned runs on seven hits. Byrd also struck out three and walked three.
The Larks and MoonDogs are back at it tomorrow when they play game four of the two-game, home-and-home split series. Both teams are looking for wins to get back to .500 for the season.
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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