MANKATO — The Mankato MoonDogs couldn’t overcome Willmar’s four home-run barrage Friday night at Franklin Rogers Park as the Stingers gained a 10-4 Northwoods League win in front of 1,254 fans.
Willmar (26-18 overall, 6-3 in second half) roughed up MoonDogs’ starter Wayland Moore for six runs in 42⁄3 innings before adding two more runs each off Trey Nielsen and Alex Hill. Moore struck out five, walked three and hit a batter.
“It’s all about starting pitching and Wayland wasn’t at his best today,” Mankato manager Mike Orchard said. “He got behind and kind of changed the flow of the game. They’re a good team and they can swing the bats.
“We’ve got a group of guys who know when they play poorly. It’s one of those games that happens and I don’t read too much into it.
“They made us pay for some poor pitches and now it will be a good challenge for us to battle back and win the series.”
After Hunter Dozier’s RBI double down the left-field line and a wild pitch enabled the Stingers to claim a 2-0 lead in their initial at bat, a two-out Stingers’ error in the bottom of the first enabled Mankato to tie things. All-Star J.M. Twitchell smacked an RBI double to deep center field before shortstop Chris Munoz followed with a run-scoring single.
Dillon Haupt then drove a solo home run over the right-center field fence in the fourth before Michael Suchy’s three-run shot to straight-away center capped the four-run frame. Kenny Roberts homered to lead off the fifth and Haupt capped the long ball frenzy with a ninth-inning blast.
“It was just one of those games where nothing was clicking right,” MoonDogs’ right fielder David Andriese said. “We were in the game to begin with but things started happening and it slid away from us. It was one of our worst games of the year but we’ll bounce back tomorrow.
“We play every day so there’s going to be days like this. The real challenge is coming back tomorrow and stepping your game up.
“Losing streaks can get on you before you know it so it’s important to bounce back after a loss. We’re pretty confident we’re not going to slide into one of those.”
Mankato (34-10, 6-2) closed out the scoring with a pair of runs in the ninth when Chase Fowler drove in a run with a single and Chase Simpson plated another with an infield out. Pinch hitter Trevor Belichek added a double. Andriesen and Fowler led the ‘Dogs with two hits apiece.
Jonathon Flinn picked up the victory in relief, allowing no runs on three hits over 32⁄3 innings. Max Kuhn, Dozier, Haupt and Matt Jackson had two hits each for the winners.
The two teams meet again today in a 7:05 p.m. start at Franklin Rogers Park.