The Duluth Huskies (15-18) were unable to complete the comeback and salvage a series split against the Mankato MoonDogs (21-11) to wrap up the road trip on Wednesday, falling by a score of 6-5.
Starters Nick Scheidler (1-1) and Brett Newberg (5-4) each had solid outings, Scheidler going for three innings before command issues started to allow too many free baserunners. Newberg continued his dominance, allowing just two earned runs through five innings of work. Both pitchers picked up a decision on the day.
The day started out ugly for the Huskies, with leadoff man Augie Isaacson going down with an injured ankle while lunging into first trying to beat out an infield single. He was helped off the field, not able to put weight on the ankle, and would not return to the game. Andrew Robinson his in his place, and eventually Jack Stronach.
Both pitchers held the opposition scoreless through the first couple of innings before the MoonDogs drew first blood in the third. With two runners in scoring position, it was center fielder Daniel Amaral who scored on a wild pitch to make it a 1-0 ballgame. A few batters later, the bases were loaded for Brady Pfaadt, who fought back from an 0-2 count with two outs to take a 2-2 pitch into center field for a two-run bloop single. After striking out Kenton Crews, Scheidler’s day was done in favor of Ricky Mitchell, who went four frames.
The Huskies answered back in the fourth, compliments of a Rob Emery single with Kyle Hubbuch on second. It would have only put runners at the corners, but the throw in to third baseman Ethan Valdez from right fielder Kenton Crews went wide left and rolled up the left field line. Hubbuch took advantage and scored the first Husky run of the day. Emery took second on the errant throw, but that would be it for Duluth in the fourth.
Valdez redeemed himself in the bottom of the frame with a double to score Drew Fearing and bring the MoonDogs back on top by three.
The two teams traded blows again in the fifth. This time it was Chase Strumpf who notched his first hit of the day on a looping double into the left field corner to score Isaac Collins. Mankato quickly retook their three-run lead when Brady Pfaadt took Ricky Mitchell deep in the bottom of the fifth.
Mitchell came into the game as the Huskies’ leader in home runs allowed with five. He left as the leader, but with seven. Alvaro Rubalcaba hit a no-doubter over the wall in the bottom of the sixth to extend Mankato’s lead to 6-2 over Mitchell’s Huskies.
Facing their largest deficit of the night, the Huskies bats came alive in the seventh. After an unceremonious pair of strikeouts to Jake Smith and Alec Abercrombie, Andrew Robinson walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch out of the hand of 6’8”, 190 lb freshman Reid Browning, who started his relief work in the sixth. Isaac Collins notched his second hit of the day on a single to drive Robinson in and cut the MoonDog lead to three. Three pitches later, Chase Strumpf took a 1-1 pitch deep over the left field wall for his sixth home run of the year, scoring Collins. The Huskies now trailed by one, and Matt Young, who tossed four relief innings on Monday against the Huskies, came in to face Kyle Hubbuch. Hubbuch promptly laced a double into left field, but was stranded there when Rob Emery struck out looking for the second time that night.
Young pitched the eighth, and Joe Gonrowski did the same for Duluth in his single inning of work. Both innings went 1-2-3, with Young striking out one and Gonrowski striking out two.
In the ninth, Naithen Dewsnap, a junior from Cal State Bakersfield, came in to face the Huskies. He had blown a one-run lead to the Huskies in the ninth a few weeks before, his second consecutive blown save. History would say that the Heart Attack Huskies were due for another miracle. History was wrong. Abercrombie, Stronach and Collins were retired in order to end the ballgame, series and road trip.
Having dropped four of five on the road trip, the Huskies look to get back on track in their final two home games against Rochester on Thursday and Friday before wrapping up the season with two on the road against Waterloo. First pitch from Wade Stadium is at 6:35 p.m.