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Published On: May 31st, 2021

Photo taken by Mansoor Ahmad (Mankato MoonDogs)


By: Connor Wachtel

MANKATO, Minn. – The Mankato MoonDogs (1-0) kicked off the 20th season in walk-off fashion, upending the La Crosse Loggers 2-1 in 10 innings during a Northwoods League contest, Monday. 


In his MoonDogs debut, Mitchell Novak (St. Scholastica) was the hero with a 10th-inning single through the left side which scored Caleb Heuertz (Midland College) from third to give the Dogs their first win of the season on opening night. 


After Bryce Novak (Gustavus) gave the MoonDogs their first run and lead on a wild pitch in the fourth inning, the Loggers evened the scored with Darrian Escobar-Winter hitting a ground-rule RBI double to center. After five innings the score was tied 1-1. Mitchell Novak proved the game-winning hit through the left side five innings later. 


Despite outhitting being outhit 6-3 and having the game’s only three mishaps in the field, the MoonDogs prevailed to move to 1-0 in 2021. 


Returning MoonDogs’ reliever Nolan Pender (Bellarmine) (1-0) secured his first win of the season in the season opener after pitching the top of the 10th for the Dogs. The starting arm was right-handed pitcher Blake Reilly (Grand Canyon) who three complete innings of one-hit shutout baseball. He struck out four and walked one along the way. 


The loss went to Loggers’ right-hander Marius Balandis (0-1). Balandis entered the game in the seventh and worked his way to the loss.  


The MoonDogs and Loggers rematch again Tuesday with the first pitch at ISG Field going out at 6:35 p.m. 


The Mankato MoonDogs are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Having completed its’ 27th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, over 230 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and MLB All-Star Jordan Zimmermann (DET). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the MoonDogs as your favorite team.