Matt Reida, batting in the ninth spot, hit his first home run of the season to lift the Mankato MoonDogs past the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers 10-6 in a comeback win on Tuesday night at Mills Field.
Losing Lunkers pitcher Tyler Harris and the rest of the Brainerd pitching staff were stung by the bottom two spots in the MoonDogs’ order, which were responsible for five runs in the game.
All-Star pitcher Joe Willman made his final start of the year for the Lunkers. The lefty entered the game with 4-1 record with and an ERA of 2.11 in 55 innings of pitching.
Willman felt that summer experience with the Lunkers was a positive one for him.
“Overall I had a great time and couldn’t ask for a better situation,” said Willman. “From the host family to the team to the way everything worked I have no regrets. The second half didn’t to like I would have liked but I had a good time overall.”
Willman will be entering his senior year at Northern Colorado, and he gained valuable experience through the number of innings pitched this season.
“I think I am at 140 innings for the year (college and summer ball) and it was hard on my body, but it’s not something I regret,” he said. “If you want to play at the next level it is something you need to handle.”
His mound opponent, Sam Selman, was not around for long as the Lunkers’ hitters, and the MoonDogs fielders combined to make a short night for Selman.
Brainerd had a 5-run second inning with only one hit. Mankato committed four errors, and none of the Lunkers’ runs was earned.
Steven Brault reached first base on a shortstop error. Casey Roche walked and Kye Winter laid down a sacrifice bunt that pitcher Selman couldn’t handle, and Brainerd had the bases loaded with nobody out.
Tommy Reyes has been swinging a hot bat as of late, and he kept that going with a single into rightfield that scored Brault and Roche. A wild throw back in from the rightfielder allowed the two base runners to move up. Tyler Wampler came up later in the inning, and hit a ground ball that went through the shortstop’s legs to score Reyes and Abrahamson and Brainerd had a 5-0 lead.
Mankato came back with two runs in the top of third inning. One of the run-scoring hits came from Shaun Cooper, who is one of the leaders for the league MVP award.
The damage was kept to a minimum with a great outfield assist from Kye Winter who threw out Nick Judkins stretching a hit to third base on a strike to Dan Olinger.
After giving up two runs to Mankato in the third inning, Willman settled down over the next two innings, allowing only one hit in the fourth and fifth inning.
He ran into trouble in the top of the sixth. With two outs and runners on first and second base, Mankato’s Steve Nyisztor tripled to right center field to score two runs and the MoonDogs cut the lead to 6-4.
Willman got into more trouble in the top of the seventh inning. Whitt Dorsey singled up the middle and moved to second on a passed ball. Reida laid down a bunt that WIllman, and then Chris Ross did the same thing to load the bases for Mankato.
That spelled the end for Willman as he was lifted to cheers from the Lunkers crowd. Tyler Harris came on and allowed just one run on a sacrifice fly from Cooper and the Lunkers still led 6-5.
The MoonDogs then took the lead for good on Reida’s three-run homer in the top of the eighth, and put the game away with two more runs in the top of the ninth.
The Lunkers will now try to salvage one game out of the three-game series as they finish with Mankato on Wednesday.
Mankato 002 002 132 — 10 14 5
Brainerd 051 000 000 — 6 6 1
Mankato: Sam Selman, Joe Pulliam (5), Steven Rice (7), Patrick Goelz (8), and Whitt Dorsey.
Brainerd: Joe Willman, Tyler Harris (7), Ray Black (9), and Wade Wass.
W: Rice L: Harris,Sv: Goelz
2B: Shaun Cooper (M), Dan Olinger (B), Ryan Abrahamson (B)
3B: Steve Nyisztor (M)
HR: Reida (M)
SB:Josh Dahl (M), Sam Lind (M)
RBIs: Nick Judkins (M), Cooper (M) 2, Nyisztor (M) 2, Sam Lind (M) 2, Reida (M) 3, Tommy Reyes (B) 2
DP: M , Brd 1
LOB: M 6, Brd 7