MoonDogs Outlast Larks in Back and Forth Contest
Anderson stays hot, Lalonde goes 6 innings in final start
BISMARCK, ND – With the playoffs out of sight, the Larks only mission in the final four games of the season is to compete. They did so on Thursday night.
The Mankato MoonDogs came to town with the best overall record in the North Division, but that had to fight for a 7-6 victory over the Larks.
Making his final start of the season for the Larks, Andy Lalonde looked to go out on a high note after being one of the team’s most consistent pitchers this season. Lalonde is one of just five players that has been on the active roster since opening day.
Lalonde got off to a hot start as he recorded five strikeouts for the first five outs of the game. In the second, the MoonDogs battled through every at bat and made life difficult on the big right-hander.
Jake Ortega doubled to left field to plate Alvaro Rubalcaba and put the MoonDogs up 1-0, then Jake Shepski singled home two more runs to make it 3-0. All three runs came home with two outs.
After the second inning, offense was put on hold for both teams.
Lalonde settled in nicely. After five early strikeouts, he reverted back to his usual strategy of pitching to contact. He managed to get through six innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits and two walks. He finished with just the five early strikeouts.
For the MoonDogs, Blake Tritch got comfortable and cruised through most of his outing. Through his first five innings, he had allowed just two hits, both coming off the bat of Ryan Anderson.
The MoonDogs controlled the first five innings, but the Larks started to make things interesting in the sixth.
With a runner on second, Collin Einertson made a diving grab in deep right field to get Lalonde out of the inning with no damage. The catch ignited a spark in the Bismarck bats.
The Larks loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning. The first run came home on a Scooter Bynum 4-6-3 double play before Anderson notched his third hit and an RBI to make it 3-2.
Tritch was replaced by Austin Bollinger after Anderson’s at bat. He allowed two runs (one earned) on five his in his 5.2 innings. He also walked one and struck out three.
Mankato responded to the Larks threat in the top of the seventh. Ortega led off the inning with a double to left and eventually scored on a Shepski single. Shepski later scored on a Brady Pfaadt groundout to stretch the MoonDogs lead to 5-2.
The Larks answered the call again. Einertson led off the inning with a double and would score on a nice base running play after Spencer Gillund hit a tapper out on front of home plate. Einertson had to take off because the bases were loaded, and he dove around the tag attempt after the catcher Ortega bobbled the ball.
The play chased Bollinger from the game as he gave way to Nicholas Belzer. Each of Belzer’s first two pitches to Jeff Mayes were passed balls that allowed Ashton Roy and Brandon Lankford to score, tying the game at 5-5.
Mayes grounded out in his at bat, but Wyatt Ulrich singled home Gillund to give the Larks a 6-5 lead.
The lead didn’t last as the MoonDogs got right back to work in the eighth. Ortega singled to lead of the inning and scored on an error from Gillund later in the inning to tie the game back up at 6-6.
In the bottom of the inning, it looked like the Larks would go quietly, but Roy drew a two-out walk to bring up Lankford. Lankford doubled to right field, but Roy was cut down at the plate after a perfect relay that went from Shepski to the second baseman Rubalcaba to Ortega.
Mankato snatched the momentum away from Bismarck and retook the lead in the ninth. Ryan Kreidler doubled to right field with two outs to plate Shepski and put the MoonDogs back on top 7-6.
Ulrich worked a two-out walk, but Naithen Dewsnap struck out Bynum to finish off the Larks and secure a tough victory for Mankato.
Shepski, the reigning Northwoods League MVP, led the way for the MoonDogs. Shepski went 5-for-5 with five singles, three RBIs, and two runs scored. Anderson stayed hot for the Larks and registered another multi-hit effort, going 3-for-4 with an RBI.
With just three games left, every game matters to Mankato (42-27 overall, 22-11 second half) as they try to secure a home game in the upcoming playoffs. The Larks (28-40 overall, 12-21 second half) can play spoiler with a win tomorrow night.
The two teams meet again at the Nest tomorrow night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:35pm as the game will be followed by fireworks.
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The Bismarck Larks are a member of the finest developmental league for 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, 180 former 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 portal. For more information, visit www.bismarcklarks.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Larks as your favorite team.