ST.COUD, MINN. – The Mankato MoonDogs offense, which had been operating at a record-setting pace for much of the summer, was systematically silenced by the St. Cloud Rox on Sunday night, as the Rox held Mankato to three hits en route to a 5-2 victory at Joe Faber Field, sweeping the two-game set and ending the MoonDogs’ 2013 season with a loss.
In an incredibly fast-paced contest, ending in under two hours, Mankato struggled to get anybody on base, as St. Cloud held the MoonDogs to one hit and only two base runners through eight innings of play, thanks in large part to the superb play of Rox starting pitcher Reese Gregory (St. Cloud St.)
Gregory, in his first appearance in a starting role this season, retired the MoonDogs at the minimum in six of the seven innings he threw. The sophomore right-hander could have potentially gone the distance, throwing only 81 pitches before being taken out of the game prior to the eighth inning. 54 of those pitches came for strikes as Gregory’s stat line finished at seven innings pitched with one hit, no earned runs, one walk and six strikeouts.
The MoonDogs were not able to reach a man past first base until the top of the ninth inning when they were trailing 5-0. Alex Polston (Seminole St.) hit a single to advance Matt Wollenzin (Austin Peay St. University) who walked the prior at-bat, giving the MoonDogs their first scoring opportunity of the night. The Glendora, Calif. native finished the season holding one of the hottest bats in the Mankato lineup and the Northwoods League, stringing together an eight game hitting streak, collecting twelve hits over that stretch.
Polston’s hit sparked the beginning of a small rally for the MoonDogs, as it was followed up with a two-RBI double by Timothy Arakawa (Oklahoma State) that got Mankato on the board and cut the Rox’ lead to three. Arakawa, after collecting the MoonDogs other hit in the game in the fourth inning, ended his All-Star season with 88 hits, a MoonDogs single-season record and only two short of cracking the top-five all-time in the Northwoods League.
But there was no last-second comeback in store for Mankato on Sunday, as Rox closer Evan Wolf (UC Davis) set down MoonDogs sluggers Chase Simpson (Wichita St.) and John Michael Twichell (UT-Arlington) to end the game in favor of St. Cloud.
The game was incredibly close up until the late stages, primarily because of great pitching performances by Gregory and MoonDogs starter Bryan Bonnell (UNLV). The right-hander from Las Vegas, Nev. continued his stretch of fine play to end the season with a seven inning performance of his own, going toe-to-toe with Gregory, giving up only one run.
The only blips on an otherwise sterling outing came during a two-hit third inning which brought home St. Cloud’s first run and three straight singles allowed in the seventh. Bonnell finished the night scattering six hits and one earned run, walking two and striking out seven, one short of his season high.
St. Cloud was able to expand their lead from one to five in the eighth inning when they feasted on MoonDogs pitcher Jon Perrin (Oklahoma St.), who came in to relieve Bonnell. Perrin gets tagged with the loss (5-4), after he gave up a pair of singles and back-to-back doubles which brought four runs home for the Rox, extending their lead to 5-0 in the waning stages of the contest.
Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star closer Jess Amedee (UT-Arlington) was given the ball one last time in 2013 to turn the last out in the eighth inning, and delivered once again, striking out St. Cloud pinch-hitter Adam Maxon to get Mankato out of the inning. Amedee ends his season throwing 48 strike outs in only 27.8 innings of work.
The loss marked a somber ending to another successful summer of MoonDog baseball. Although Mankato (21-14 Second Half, 38-32 Overall) finished outside the playoff picture for the first time in three years, the 2013 MoonDogs set a number of team and individual records in the process. John Michael Twichell set the MoonDogs career home run record at 25, while Chase Simpson set the season season RBI record at 56.
The Northwoods League Playoffs begin on Monday as Waterloo visits Duluth in the North Divisional Playoffs and Madison visits Lakeshore in the South. To follow the playoffs visit www.northwoodsleague.com.
The MoonDogs Organization would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all of the fans that have supported the MoonDogs throughout the 2013 season. To follow the MoonDogs throughout the off season check out www.mankatomoondogs.com, as well as Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter (@MoonDogsBall).