Mankato and Lakeshore pick up series-opening wins

Mankato downed Willmar in Game 1 of the Northern Division playoffs, as the MoonDogs struck for three runs in the seventh and fought off the Stingers for a 7-4 win. In the South, wire-to-wire division champs Lakeshore struck for five runs in the top of the ninth to take Game 1, 9-4, after trailing by three runs early.

Mankato 7, Willmar 4

A three-run seventh carried Mankato to a series opening win over the No. 1-ranked Stingers. A two-run single from Tanner Rockwell (Arkansas Little Rock) after an error in right that brought home another run put the MoonDogs ahead for good. Rockwell drove in four runs for Mankato and also threw an inning and two thirds in relief to pick up the win, allowing a lone run on three hits while striking out three.

Lights out closer Tyler Mark (Cal St Dominguez) went 1.1 innings and didn't allow a run, pushing his streak to 30 shutout innings on the season while recording his 10th save of the summer and 1st of the postseason. He struck out two and has an impressive 48 on the season. He also escaped a bases-loaded jam that Rockwell left him, getting a crucial strikeout in what could of have been a big eighth inning for the Stingers. 

Willmar got six strong innings from Phoenix Sanders (Daytona St), who turned in a quality start, but reliever Will Lydon (Pacific) gave up three runs and took the loss. Nick Rivera (FGCU) hit a solo home run in the loss for the Stingers, who out-hit Mankato 11-9 but are on the verge of being eliminated in the first round for the second time in the past three years.

Lakeshore 9, Wisconsin 4

Zack Bowers (Georgia) hit a big grand slam in the top of the ninth and the Chinooks struck for five runs to break open a 4-4 tie and pick up a win over the Woodchucks. Bowers hit his bases loaded shot with one out, following a RBI single from Brett Siddall (Cansius) that put Lakeshore up. 

Wisconsin led early, jumping ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the second. The Woodchucks loaded the bases against Lakeshore starter Evan Kruczynski (East Carolina), and second basemen and No. 9 hitter Zak Leighton (Wayne St. College) brought them home with a base-clearing double. However, Kruczynski would go on to last seven innings in a quality start- a no-decision.

The Chinooks clawed back in it, tying it with a three-run frame of their own before going ahead in the top of the sixth on a RBI single from fellow No. 9 hitter Luke Meeteer (UW-Milwaukee). However, Lakeshore reliever Jake Tuttle (UW-Milwaukee) blew the lead in the bottom of the eighth before being bailed out by a five-run ninth. 

Tuesday's Schedule (Gm. 2):

Wisconsin at Lakeshore, 6:35 p.m.
Mankato at Willmar, 7:05 p.m.