(Mankato, MN) MoonDogs and Border Cats split their season series with each team winning four games apiece. Four of the games played between the two teams were decided by only one run. Tonight’s game definitely had a flare for the dramatic, but it wasn’t in the favor of the home team as Thunder Bay (1-0) scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to take a 5-3. This was enough for closer Jimmy Stanley as the right-hander allowed a single in the bottom of the ninth, but retired the side to record the victory for the visitors.
Thunder Bay took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning after Josh Ashenbrenner singled with one out and advanced to second on an error by third baseman Wes Freie (Iowa). Ashenbrenner advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout to Freie. The MoonDogs fought back in the third scoring a run of their own. Tony Strazzara (San Diego) led off the inning with a walk. Brett Krill (UCLA) attempted to sacrifice Strazzara to second base, but an error by the catcher put runners on first and second with no outs on the board. Bobby Munoz (St. Leo’s) followed this with a single to drive in Strazzara, and it looked like the MoonDogs would add another run in the inning, but a controversial runner interference call on Munoz trying to break up a double play erased the second run and ended the inning for the home team.
Starters Brendan Lafferty (UCLA) and Seth Frankoff traded scoreless innings after this until the top of the seventh inning when Lafferty walked the first two batters he faced. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out. Lafferty struck out Connor Lind and looked like he might get out of the inning, but a single by Mike O’Neill scored two runs for the Border Cats giving them a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. Once again, the MoonDogs would respond with a run of their own. CJ Belanger (Cal-State Northridge) led off the inning with a walk and Strazzara followed this with a triple into deep left field. Unfortunately, the MoonDogs could not score Strazzara from third as Krill struck out, Munoz popped out to short right field and Michael Rockett (Texas-San Antonio) lined out to third base.
The MoonDogs were not done scoring as they added another run in the eighth inning. Cory Harrilchak (Elon) led off the inning with a single, and a Kyle Knudson (Minnesota) single tied the game at three going to the top of the ninth inning. Zach Calhoon (Texas-San Antonio) who pitched a solid eighth inning, struck out the first batter he faced, but proceeded to walk the following two. This brought Josh Castanza (MSU-Mankato) into the contest. Castanza retired the first batter he faced, but could not get past Derek Wiley, who singled into left field scoring two runs for Thunder Bay. This would be all the help closer Stanley would need in picking up his first win of the postseason.
The two teams will square off once again on Wednesday with the MoonDogs facing an elimination game. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:05 CST. The MoonDogs will send Jimmy Reyes (Elon) to the mound to try to tie the series up at one game apiece.