(Mankato, MN) The Mankato MoonDogs (18-11, 38-25) struggled to do the little things on Wednesday night committing three errors in the contest, issuing five walks, including four walks in the last two innings, and left eight runners on base. When all of these things are going wrong for a team, it is difficult to win a game and Eau Claire (15-14, 30-32) took advantage of all of these mishaps scoring twelve runs and defeating the MoonDogs 12-5 on Wednesday.
The two teams traded the lead back and forth through the first five innings of the game as Mankato led 4-3 entering the sixth inning. The Express found a way to do something other teams in the league have struggled to do, bunch hits together off of MoonDogs starter Cory Harrilchak (Elon). Harrilchak entered the game with a perfect 4-0 record and a 1.20 ERA, but on this night, he struggled to get batters out allowing six runs (five earned) on ten hits. The left-hander did strike out five and didn’t issue a walk on the evening, but the ten hits were too much damage for the starter to overcome.
Travis Smith (Michigan) came in to pitch an inning of relief in the seventh and allowed two runs on a walk and a hit leaving the game with the score at 8-4. Dale Dickerson (Nicholls St.) entered the game in the eighth and struggled with his control once again issuing three walks and allowing four runs during his 1/3 of an inning pitched. Josh Castanza (MSU-Mankato) finished the eighth inning picking up his 54th appearance in a MoonDogs uniform, a new team record. Castanza allowed two hits and struck out two batters to finish out the inning. Wes Freie (Iowa) worked a scoreless ninth inning issuing one walk and striking out one batter.
Offensively, Harrilchak and Elon-teammate Mike Lobacz led the team with three hits apiece. Harrilchak went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and Lobacz went 3-for-5 with a run scored and two driven in. In the third, fifth, and seventh innings, these two put back-to-back hits together, but the rest of the lineup could not follow the lead of their teammates. Brett Krill (UCLA) also had a solid night at the plate going 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
Eau Claire and Mankato will square off again on Thursday night with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05pm. Thursday night will also be Curtis Granderson Bobble head Night and the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a Granderson Bobble head doll. The gates will open at 6:05pm for the game and fans are encouraged to get to the ballpark early with their tickets in hand.