Photo taken by Christina Lynn (Eau Claire Express)
By: Connor Wachtel
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – After batting back in the later stages, the Mankato MoonDogs (4-1) dropped their first contest of the season 9-8 in the ninth inning to the Eau Claire Express (1-4), Friday.
The MoonDogs trailed the Express for a large portion of Friday’s affair before rallying back to tie the game in the eighth. Cole Andavolgyi (Golden West College) hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot, to tie the game in the top of the ninth 8-8 after Mankato previously trailed 8-2.
Henry George was the hero for Eau Claire, slapping an opposite-field game-winning hit that hugged the leftfield line to score Ryan Lin-Peistrup, who reached by being hit by a pitch. It gave the Express their first win of 2021 and the MoonDogs their first loss of 2021.
Although the six-run unanswered surge came up short, the MoonDogs, now 4-1 this season, stand behind their best start to a campaign since 2016 when they started 5-0.
Matt Higgins (Bellarmine) had another big night for Mankato. The MoonDogs’ centerfielder boasted a 4-for-5 evening with a double, two RBI and a pair of runs scored.
Aside from putting up runs in each of the final four frames to make a late push back into the ballgame, the Dogs also outhit the Express 15-11 and were statistically better on the defensive end, with errors siding 2-1 in favor of the Express. Eau Claire finished the night with 10 runners left on base while Mankato left nine.
Southpaw Jace Kressin secured his first win of the season to move to 1-0 despite surrendering three runs on four hits in the ninth, allowing the MoonDogs to tie the game.
The loss went to MoonDogs relief right-hander Dalton Mesaris (Western Kentucky) who now owns a 1-1 record this season. Mesaris surrendered one hit after hitting a batter with a pitch in the ninth, which allowed the winning run to score from third.
The MoonDogs and Express rematch at Carson Park Saturday with the first pitch slated for 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 www.mankatomoondogs.com 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.