St. Cloud Rox celebrate fifth playoff appearance since 2015 at Wade Stadium in Duluth, Minn. on July 3, 2021
The St. Cloud Rox finally held off the Mankato MoonDogs to win a competitive Great Plains West Division first half.
After an important Thursday night victory over Mankato in the Granite City, the Rox defeated Duluth at home Friday night, then matriculated north, demolishing the Huskies 12-2 Saturday at Wade Stadium to finish 24-8. St. Cloud won a remarkable 22 of their final 26 games. And they needed every win because Mankato, after prevailing late in Bismarck, finished 23-9, winners of 11 in their last 12.
On a warm afternoon along Lake Superior, the Rox tattooed Duluth pitching, benefited from some sloppy Huskies defense and coaxed 10 walks from the opposition. A nine-run third inning — on only five hits — did the most damage.
Jordan Barth and Justin Kirby paced the team with three hits. Connor Barison closed out the crucial game with a perfect ninth inning. Hunter Dollander retired the first 11 batters and picked up the win.
The 2021 NAIA World Series MVP scattered three hits over six innings, with no earned runs allowed, to lower his season ERA to 0.95. The Rox are 15-4 at home so far in 2021, totaling 32-7 since July 2020 at Joe Faber Field. St. Cloud opens the Northwoods League second half Tuesday against Bismarck (18-16). Duluth falls to 11-21. Waterloo long ago wrapped up the Great Plains East, finishing 22-10.
St. Cloud's Andrew Pinckney lines a base hit to left field against the Duluth Huskies at Wade Stadium in Duluth, Minn. on July 3, 2021