MANKATO — The Mankato MoonDogs might be looking forward to their longest road trip of the season beginning tonight in Rochester.
Tuesday night at Franklin Rogers Park, Mankato wasn't able to hold on to a late lead and dropped its fourth straight game at home, losing to the Rochester Honkers 3-2. It's the MoonDogs' fourth setback in their last five games.
Mankato got on the board first in support of starting pitcher Adam Mott. David Andriese led off the second inning with a double to right field. He scored two batters later when Audie Afenir doubled off the glove of Rochester third baseman Brandon Defazio for a 1-0 MoonDogs' lead. It was Afeni's first hit and RBI as a member of the MoonDogs in his third game with the club.
Afenir added a single in the fourth inning to go 2 for 3. He had two of Mankato's six hits.
Mott tossed seven strong innings, allowing one run on seven hits while striking out three batters.
"My performance was good tonight," said Mott. "I was able to throw all four pitches for a strike."
The MoonDogs were able to put Mott in a position for the win in the bottom of the seventh. With the score tied at 1, Drew Stankiewicz drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on a single by Kyle Turner. Nick Ratajczak executed a perfect squeeze play, scoring Stankiewicz for a 2-1 lead.
Mankato manager Mike Orchard pulled Mott after the inning in favor of Derek Howell. The reliever came into the game with a 4-0 record and an earned-run average of 1.66.
His first pitch of the eighth hit Rochester's Dakota Smith in the forearm. In a flash, the one run lead he inherited was gone when the next batter, Justin Parr, demolished a pitch over the right-center wall, giving the Honkers a 3-2 lead.
"Orch came up to me and asked me how do you feel," said Mott. "I said I felt good, but if we take the lead you can take me out.
"We took the lead. You have to believe in the guys behind me."
Honkers' starting pitcher Dylan Nelson went seven innings, striking out eight MoonDogs to get his first win of the season.
The MoonDogs (7-6 in second half, 35-13 overall) take to the road for five straight games beginning tonight with the first of a two-game set in Rochester. Mankato won't return home until July 26 when it hosts Alexandria.