By: Connor Wachtel
WILLMAR, Minn. – The Mankato MoonDogs (39-21) clinched their ninth Northwoods League playoff berth with an 8-3 victory over the Willmar Stingers (29-34), Saturday night at Bill Taunton Stadium.
The MoonDogs offense surged on Saturday night, scoring a run in the fourth, four in the fifth and another pair in the seventh for a total of seven unanswered runs at The Beehive.
Mankato’s big fourth inning was highlighted with RBI doubles hit by Jack Costello (San Diego) and Will Hanafan (Creighton). Costello added another RBI knock to his resume in the seventh before Carson Yates (UCLA) drove him in with an RBI single of his own. After seven innings, the MoonDogs led the Stingers by an unanswered score of 7-0.
Willmar rallied to score three runs in the eighth, but were put on hold by the MoonDogs prior to when first baseman Alex Baeza (Utah) hit his third home run of the summer to right in the ninth, the solo shot added late insurance to the MoonDogs lead before it eventually stood in an 8-3 final.
The hits effort went the way of the MoonDogs, 12-5, while Mankato finished the night with one more error than the host Stingers, 2-1. The MoonDogs had 13 runners stranded in the ballgame, the Stingers left 10 aboard.
After pitching six complete innings of two-hit shutout baseball, MoonDogs’ starting right-hander Nolan Pender (Bellarmine) locked up his seventh win of the summer to move to a 7-2 record on the campaign. Along the way, the Louisville, Ky., native walked one and struck out five. With the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning of a four-run game, Vince Reilly (Grand Canyon) entered the game amidst a save situation and led the MoonDogs out of the jam before completing his sixth save of the summer in the ninth.
The MoonDogs’ first opponent in the 2021 Northwoods League Playoffs will be the St. Cloud Rox for a best-of-three series. More information on scheduling and ticketing options for the game(s) will be announced at a later date.
The MoonDogs and Stingers rematch for one last contest in the season series on Sunday at Bill Taunton Stadium. The first pitch is slated for 5:05 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.