What a relief.

After a week’s worth of blown leads, the Bismarck Larks beat Thunder Bay 5-2 Friday in a Northwoods League thanks to great pitching and equally good defensive play in the eighth inning.

“The way Andy (Lalonde) handled himself, that’s what we needed,” Bismarck manager Sean Repay said. “He earned that one.”

Lalonde started and went six innings, allowed three hits and two runs, only one of which was earned.

The game was tied when he left, but the Larks scored a run without the benefit of a hit to hand reliever Jake Kari a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh.

The lanky lefty formerly with Thunder Bay pitched 1.2 innings of one-hit relief and Nick Boyles finished up for the save.

The Larks came into the game on a three-game losing streak and had lost six of their last seven games. Bismarck had led in five of those six losses only to have its relief corps fail to hold the lead.

“Coming back home really helps us out,” Boyles said. “We don’t have to deal with long bus rides. Everybody is pretty comfortable and can get their work in before the game.”

Lalonde went six innings, allowed three hits and two runs, only one of which was earned.

No one was more excited to see Noah Sadler score what proved to be the winning run in the bottom if the sixth than Lalonde.

“It was definitely a big relief when I saw the ball go to the backstop,” Lalonde said. “I was in the bullpen when I saw it and sprinted to the dugout to congratulate Noah."

Sadler walked to lead off, went to second on a wild pitch by Gilliland. Brady Hill relieved him and got a double play that sent Sadler to third. Sadler then scored on a wild pitch.

The Border Cats (1-2, 14-4) went on top early.

Leadoff batter Andy Weber started the third with a walk and went to third on Gabriel Lozada’s single to right. Larks right-fielder Sadler threw behind Lozada and in the ensuing rundown, first-baseman Austin Paschke threw wild to second, allowing Weber to score and Lozada to reach second.

Lozada went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Noah Strohl’s sacrifice fly.

Gilliland coasted through three innings. He had a no-hitter until two outs in the fourth when Newt Johnson drilled a two-run double to left-center.

Paschke, who reached when Thunder Bay left-fielder Mark Venice dropped a popup, and Sadler, who walked, scored to tie it 2-2.

The Larks (1-2, 17-21) added two runs in the eighth. Scooter Bynum, who raced deep into the gap in left-center to grab what would have been a game-tying double, led off with the first off three straight singles.

Johnson and Luke Waldek followed, scoring Bynum.

Cooper Coldiron later walked to force in a run.

“Boyles came in and did the job …,” Repay said. “And we’re home for more than two days. We’re definitely happy to be home and ready to get on a run.”

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