MANKATO, MINN. – The Mankato MoonDogs' Playoff lives were contingent upon one thing entering Thursday night's interleague matchup with the Madison Mallards win at all costs. The MoonDogs were ultimately one base hit away from doing just that but rather they suffer a heartbreaking 5-4 defeat to the Mallards at Franklin Rogers Park.
After entering the bottom of the ninth down 5-2, Mankato began to string together a last minute comeback. The MoonDogs grinded their way to load the bases on Mallard closer Kristian Calibuso (Eastern Michigan to bring outfielder Timothy Arakawa (Oklahoma State) to the plate with two outs on the board. Arakawa connected on a roper to center field, an RBI double to cut the lead to 5-4 and put the winning run in scoring position.
Hibraim Cordova (University of the Cumberlands), who had been swinging a hot bat in his last several games came up to bat with the chance to deliver a walk-off winner. But Cordova fell victim to a Danny Sullivan (Davenport) strikeout to end the game and clinch the win for Madison.
The Mallards took a stronghold of the game thanks to a big eighth inning, where four runs scored catapulted them from trailing 2-1 to a 5-2 lead. A three-run home run from Drew Weeks (North Florida) off of MoonDogs reliever Jordan DePonte (Hawaii) did the majority of the damage. Later in the inning, Jeff Zahn (Indiana State) drove in what turned out to be the winning run with an RBI triple.
The game began as a tight, defensive affair as only two runs were scored over the first five innings, both in favor of Mankato. The MoonDogs got on the board in the bottom of the first thanks to a Jonathan Rodriguez (Oklahoma City) RBI single which brought home Cordova, who reached earlier in the frame on a fielders' choice.
Mankato doubled their lead in the fifth when Alex Polston popped an RBI single on Mallards starting pitcher Cam Verbeke (Illinois State). Verbeke earned a no-decision in the contest despite a solid performance, throwing six complete innings giving up five hits and two earned runs.
The MoonDogs received a well-balanced effort from their bullpen, starting with team RBI-leader Chase Simpson's (Wichita St.) first start on the mound. Donovan Feenstra (Univ. of the Cumberlands), Julian Esquibel (Faulkner University), DePonte, and Jess Amedee also saw work in the contest, holding Madison to eight hits. DePonte assumes the loss (0-1) for being the victim of Madison's eighth inning barrage.
The loss drops the MoonDogs to 20-12 in the Second Half (37-30 overall), and a possible three games back from the Duluth Huskies, depending on the final score in Duluth on Thursday. The Huskies and Eau Claire Express were mired in a 10-10 tie in extra innings at the time of publication.
The Express might represent Mankato's saving grace, as they made a big rally in the top of the ninth to force the extra frames. A three-game deficit with three games remaining on the schedule would mean the MoonDogs have to win their remaining games while the Huskies' lose theirs to earn a playoff berth for Mankato.
The MoonDogs take the field at Franklin Rogers for the last time in 2013, at least in the regular season on Friday as they look for revenge against the Mallards. The game is Fan Appreciation Night, capped off with a Fireworks Extravaganza presented by Charter Communications, Radio Mankato and KEYC, with a first pitch scheduled at 7:05 p.m.
To make sure you dont miss any of the action, get your tickets today by visiting the MoonDogs office at 1221 Caledonia Street in Mankato, or over the phone at 507-625-7047. For more information and up-to-date news, stats and more visit our website at www.mankatomoondogs.com, Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter (@MoonDogsBall).