Mud Puppies use nine run eighth to rally past Hot Tots

Adam Papin/MDN Hot Tots second baseman Nic Pepe tags out the Minnesota Mud Puppies’ Isaac Nett as he tries to steal second base during the first inning of last night’s game.

For the second time in three games, the Minot Hot Tots squandered a substantial lead, this time giving up nine runs in the eighth inning to allow the Minnesota Mud Puppies to rally for a 12-9 win.

Christian Perez opened the scoring when he hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning that also scored Nic Pepe and Karson Evans to put the Hot Tots on top 3-0.

The Mud Puppies answered right back though when Luke Luskey scored on a RBI single by Brock Larsen. Then, with two outs in the top of the third and a runner on first, Carson Hake hit a ball over the right field wall to tie the game, 3-3.

Minot got their second home run of the game an inning later, when Brannon Mondragon blasted one to left field, scoring Christian Perez and allowing the Hot Tots to retake the lead 5-3.

The Hot Tots padded their lead in the fifth on runs by Pepe, Evans and Perez, before Damone Hale crossed home to make the score 9-3.

However,the Mud Puppies weren’t going to go away quietly into the night.

Trailing by six runs, AJ Carter got the rally started with a run, before a Carter Hanson pinch-hit double scored Luskey and Larsen. Then, Isaac Nett lined a triple to right field that scored Hanson. Kyle Law hit a double of his own to score Nett. From there, it only got worse as Law, Becker, Carter and Luskey all added additional runs to give the Mud Puppies a 12-9 lead.

The Hot Tots were unable to score any runs the rest of the way, and the loss drops Minot to 1-8 on the year. They are still searching for that elusive first home win in franchise history.

“I think our record could easily be 7-2,” said Minot head coach Mitch Gallagher. “There are only a couple games where we’ve gotten beat; a couple of mistakes here and there, where we’re beating ourselves. It’s just minor things that we’ll clean up as the team starts to bond and mesh.”

“I do think we’ll be able to get it rolling.”

One area of concern for Minot has been the number of times the Hot Tots have struck out at the plate. So far in the young season, the team is averaging nearly twelve strikeouts a game. Gallagher thinks the troubles at the plate will resolve itself as the season progresses.

“A lot of our players haven’t seen live pitching in the two to three weeks before they’ve gotten out here. There’s a little bit of an adjustment phase for them to get dialed back into the rhythm and timing of actually hitting,” said Gallagher.

Minnesota picks up their first win of the season, improving to 1-2.

It was only the third game of the year for the Mud Puppies, who are in their third year of existence. The Mud Puppies franchise was created by the Northwoods League during the pandemic, as a response to the Thunder Bay Border Cats not being allowed to travel due to the Covid-related closing of the U.S.-Canadian border. When the border remained closed during the 2022 season, the team stuck around, calling the Twin Cities metro area home for training. However, unique among the Northwoods League teams, the Mud Puppies only play road games, and as such are ineligible for the playoffs at the end of the year.

Despite the on-field challenges, the Hot Tots praised the way the Minot community has embraced the team so far this season.

“It’s been awesome,” said Gallagher. “Even through some of the rain delays we’ve had, the lightning and everything like that, the crowd has never lost their energy. As long as they keep bringing that energy, we will keep providing a little bit of entertainment on our end.”

The Hot Tots continue their eight game homestand tonight when they close out their series with the Mud Puppies. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. Then, they welcome the Eu Claire Express to town for a four-game set starting on Saturday night.


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