Mark Anderson threw six innings of no-hit ball, and three relievers came in to shut the game down as the Thunder Bay Border Cats defeated the Mankato MoonDogs 3-1 on Thursday night.
The win pushed the Cats’ record in the Northwoods League to 9-15. A loss against Eau Claire on Wednesday was overturned by the league due to a “pitcher violation” by the Express, according to team officials.
Because of the violation, one loss was subtracted from the Border Cats’ mark and one win was removed from Eau Claire’s.
Mankato dropped its sixth straight to fall to 11-14.
Mankato’s Tyler Lesley wasn’t far behind Anderson on the mound, throwing six and 2/3 innings of three-run ball to take the loss.
“We kind of got a timely hit here and there, a little pass ball, it could have been 1-0 at the end of the day,” said Cats manager Eric Vasquez. “For Anderson to go out there, after losing two to Eau Claire, we rode him and it was good.”
Alex Hernandez blocked a tough pitch in the ninth that kept the Express runners glued to their bags, a play that Vasquez sees as a positive sign.
“Things are happening in our favour finally,” said Vasquez. “That comes with preparing to win. That comes with working hard every day. It just doesn’t happen. Guys are buying in to the culture we brought in as coaches. A little hit by (Bryce) Jorgenson (in the eighth). Probably shouldn’t fall in but it does. We’re starting to get those breaks.”
Thunder Bay had five hits through three innings and managed to manufacture a run in the third. Nick Seamons led off with a double, Jakob Newton bunted him to third and Anthony Galati singled him home.
Anderson, meanwhile, was twirling a gem. He kept his no-hitter intact until the top of the seventh inning. Michael Perez singled and Josh Elvir doubled to right centre ending his night.
Ryan Windham, out of Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., came out of the bullpen and threw five straight balls to load the bags. After that, Windham struck out Justin Mazzone for the first out.
Hernandez was able to corral a ball the ball that squirted far enough away to entice Mankato’s Perez to try and score. In the collision that ensued Hernandez tagged Perez out ten feet in front of the plate for the second out. A subsequent grounder ended the inning preserving Anderson’s outing.
“Definitely coming into that situation I knew it was going to be tough,” Windham said of his first appearance as a Border Cat. “Just got the nerves out on that first one. Settled in. That play at home kind of locked me in a little bit. After the lead-off walk I was a little negative. Stepped off, took a deep breath, just got back out there.”
The seventh inning was pivotal for both sides. Thunder Bay was able to shut down the ‘Dogs, and the Cats were able to tack on to their lead.
“I think the bases loaded, nobody outs (in the seventh), you have to cash in there,” said MoonDoogs skipper Matt Wollenzin. “That’s kind of what happens. We’ve been struggling the last, four, five, six games offensively. When it goes on that long I think guys just start to press rather than trust in themselves.”
Thunder Bay picked up a pair of tallies in their half. Jakob Newton’s RBI single scored Thomas Grilli and Jorgenson scored on a wild pitch from MoonDogs’ reliever Alex Dorethy.
Mankato was able to put a run on the board in the eighth on Cats reliever Carlos Lequerica. Aaron Kern finished the game off in the ninth.
It was Anderson’s day, as he picked up his second win and lowered his ERA to 2.30.
“Honestly, in the bullpen I didn’t feel as well as I wanted to,” said Anderson, who threw 86 pitches, allowed two hits, walked a pair, struck out seven and allowed zero runs. “When I got out there everything was able to settle in. It was definitely disappointing to lose the no-hitter, it happens, I was happy with what I was able to do and put our team in a position to win.”