WATERLOO – A shortened season that began more than a month later than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic, ended in celebration for the Waterloo Bucks.
They captured the Northwoods League’s Minnesota-Iowa Regional Championship Thursday night with a 17-6 drubbing of the Mankato MoonDogs at Riverfront Stadium. Waterloo pounded out 20 hits in the victory.
Each starter recorded at least one hit. Lead-off batter Jalen Smith was 4-for-4 with two walks, three stolen bases and four runs scored. Ryan Guardino (2-3, HBP, 2 R, 2B, 5 RBI) drove in five runs and earned Northwoods League Player of the Night honors.
The Bucks entered their season finale trailing first-place St. Cloud by a half game. Their mission was simple: beat the MoonDogs and hope for a St. Cloud loss. Both games had a favorable outcome for Waterloo. The Rox fell to Willmar 9-3 shortly after the Bucks’ victory, an outcome that clinched title for Waterloo.
Mankato opened the scoring in the first inning with a two-run homer off the bat of Drew Stahl. The Bucks responded with a four-run second inning.
After the MoonDogs narrowed the deficit to 4-3 with a run in the third inning, Waterloo took control of the game by plating three runs in the fifth. The Bucks added four more in both the sixth and seventh, and finished their scoring with a pair in the eighth. All in all, Waterloo’s one-through-five hitters went a combined 15-for-22 with 10 runs scored and 11 runs batted in.