The Mankato Moondogs are playing for home field in the Northwoods League playoffs. The Bismarck Larks are playing the role of spoilers.
Urgency won out on Thursday as the Moondogs rallied for runs in the eighth and ninth innings to beat the Larks 7-6 after blowing a 5-2 lead in the seventh.
“These guys are locked in,” Mankato manager Ryan Kragh said. “These guys want to win the second half. They want a home game.”
The Moondogs (22-11, 4-27) extended their winning streak to five games while handing the Larks (12-21, 29-40) their fifth straight loss. Bismarck has lost 11 of its last 12 games.
Ryan Kreidler’s run-scoring double off Zach Walz (1-2) in the ninth was the game-winner.
Jake Shepski was 5-for-5 for Mankato, which concludes a two-game series with the Larks tonight.
“I can’t remember the last time I had a five-hit game,” Shepski said. “I felt good today.
The Moondogs took a 3-0 lead and led 5-2 heading into the home half of the seventh. But the Larks scored four times to go up 6-5.
“Props to those guys for coming out and competing,” Shepski said. “They’re out of the playoffs but they compete because it’s the right way to respect the game.”
Ryan Anderson had three hits for the Larks and Wyatt Ulrich added two.
Bismarck starter Andy Lalonde pitched well enough to win, but he got no support in the field or at the plate. The Larks backed his six innings of work with two hits, both by first-baseman Ryan Anderson.
Anderson continues to be the team’s only consistent offensive threat. In 46 starts, he has at least two hits in 20 games and raised his average to .344.
The Moondogs took a 1-0 lead in the second when left-fielder Ulrich took a bad angle on Jake Ortega’s fly ball over his head. What could have been the third out turned into a double and eventually two more runs. Jake Shepski’s single drove in a pair for a 3-0 lead.
Lalonde got the first five outs of the game by strikeout. He scattered six hits and walked two.
Blake Tritch started for Mankato and went 5.2 innings. He was lifted after giving up Anderson’s third hit, one that drove in Jeff Mayes to make it a 3-2 game. Spencer Gillund singled to lead off the inning and scored the first run on Scooter Bynum’s ground out.
Austin Bollinger came on and threw three pitches to end the threat.
Joe Spradlin relieved Lalonde and gave the two runs back in the seventh as the Moondogs took a 5-2 lead.
The Larks loaded the bases with no outs for the second straight inning in the seventh off Bollinger. After catcher Jake Ortega misplayed a bouncer in front of the plate allowing a run to score, Nicholas Belzer came in.
Ortega missed Belzer’s first pitch and Collin Einertson scored. Belzer’s second pitch was wild and Brandon Lankford scored to tie it 5-5.
Ulrich followed with a single up the middle that scored Gillund with the go-ahead run.
In the eighth, Spradlin gave up a single to Logan Busch and walked pinch-hitter Kyle Cuellar with one out. He was replaced by Zach Walz.
Ortega hit the second pitch to Gillund at short. He missed the ball and the tying run scored on the error.
The Larks tried to break the tie in the eighth on Brandon Lankford’s double but Ashton Roy was thrown out at the plate.
Joey Gerber (3-1) got the win in relief and Nthen Dewsnap got the save.
The two teams play again tonight at 7:30.