MANKATO — Cuba Bess got the ball rolling for Mankato on Thursday. And he did that by making the ball sail over the fence.

With a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning and a two-run blast that gave his team some insurance, Bess pushed the MoonDogs to a 4-1 Northwoods League win over Willmar.

The Stingers got off to a quick start as Sam Baier led the game off with a single. Later in the inning, he scored Willmar’s lone run on Justin King’s RBI single. King now has a team-high 33 RBIs while Baier sits in second in the Northwoods League with 66 runs scored.

Bess tied the game in the bottom of the first with a solo home run before Michael Perez scored the go-ahead run on a groundout to put Mankato ahead 2-1.

From there, MoonDogs pitcher Brett Newberg kept the Stingers off the board as he went seven innings, striking out six. MoonDogs’ relief pitchers Josh Ramirez and Jack Pilcher combined to get four of the next six outs via strikeout.

Baier finished the game 2-for-4 with a pair of stolen bases while James Gamble was also 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Trevor Divinski was hit with the loss after five innings of work.

The two teams will meet again at 7:05 p.m. on Friday back in Mankato.

Mankato 4, Willmar 1

Willmar 100 000 000-1 7 2
Mankato 200 000 02x-4 7 0
Hitting - Willmar: Sam Baier 2-4 r sb-2, Riley Johnson 1-4 sb, Brennan McKenzie 1-2 sb, Justin King 1-3 rbi sb-2, James Gamble 2-4 sb … Mankato: Nick Novak 2-4 r, Cuba Bess 2-4 hr-2 r-2 rbi-3, Michael Perez 1-4 r, Josh Elvir 2-3 sb, Sean Ross 0-4 rbi
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Trevor Divinski (L) 5-3-2-2-0-3, Bryant Claunch 1-2-0-0-0-1, Aldo Fernandez 1-0-0-0-1-1, Casey Dykstra 1-2-2-2-1-2 … Mankato: Brett Newberg (W) 7-7-1-1-3-6, Josh Ramirez 1-0-0-0-1-1, Jack Pilcher (S) 1-0-0-0-0-3