(Mankato, MN) It was a bittersweet night for the Mankato MoonDogs (20-13) on Wednesday. The team led their game in Thunder Bay 3-2 in the middle of the eighth inning and looked to be on their way to clinching their first playoff appearance, but costly errors in the eighth and ninth innings put runners on base at the wrong times, and a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth sealed the fate of the visitors with the Border Cats (18-15) taking the game by a score of 7-3.
Bryan Longpre (Grossmont JC) went six solid innings for the MoonDogs allowing two runs on two hits and striking out a pair of batters. Zach Calhoon (Texas-San Antonio) came into the contest in the seventh inning and pitched one scoreless inning, striking out two batters. Dale Dickerson (Nicholls St.) came on in the eighth inning and allowed one unearned run to tie the game at three. After Mankato did not score in their half of the ninth inning, Dickerson went out for his second inning of work, but errors by the MoonDogs loaded the bases for Tim Palincsar with two outs. Palincsar launched the ball over the fence for a walk-off grand slam to end the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Carlos Ramirez (Chandler-Gilbert) led the MoonDogs offensively going 2-for-4 on the evening. Ramirez’s two hits came in categories that he currently leads the league in: a double (his 12th) and a home run (his 6th). Mike Lobacz (Elon) drove in one on his lone hit of the evening.
After their game, the MoonDogs were forced to be scoreboard watchers and St. Cloud River Bats fans as the Rochester/St. Cloud game was still in progress. These two teams also played a very closely contested game, but in the end it was a Derek McCallum two-run homer in the top of the ninth that would clinch the game for St. Cloud, and the first half division title for the MoonDogs.
Mankato will finish their two-game series tonight against Thunder Bay before departing for Duluth over the 4th of July weekend. Thursday’s game is scheduled to begin at 6:05pm CDT.