La Crosse, Wisc.- The Willmar Stingers fend off the un-relenting Logger offense to take game 1 of the series, 11-9.
Willmar struck first in their opening inning. Quincy McAfee (Pepperdine) reached on an error by Logger second baseman Cullen Large (William & Mary). Danny Pardo (Montevallo) followed him with a double to deep right-center field, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd base with no outs. Greg Lambert (Southern Illinois) brought in his 22nd and 23rd runs of the season with a single up the middle, giving the Stingers a 2-0 lead.
Jake Hirbayashi (UCLA) and Kevin Collard (San Diego) led off the 3rd inning for the Loggers with singles into center field. Ramon Padilla (Illinois Central) brought in La Crosse’s 1st run on a line drive single to left field, scoring Hirabayashi. The Stingers’ shortstop, Dylan Woods (Nova Southeastern) shut down the inning for the Loggers on a fielder’s choice that got Collard at 3rd and a highlight reel 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
Danny Pardo struck again in the 5th inning. With a runner on base, he took a full count pitch into the “Home Run Haven” beyond the right field wall, extending the Willmar lead to 4-1.
Three more Stingers crossed home in the next inning on a double by Quincy McAfee and a single by Danny Pardo.
Grant Fennell (Nevada) cut the Stinger lead in the 7th when he singled and scored on a base hit by Logger first baseman Randy Labaut (Arizona). Labaut scored on a bases loaded wild pitch, but that was all the Loggers could produce that inning.
Cullen Large picked up right where La Crosse left off in the very next inning. He sent a 0-1 pitch over the right-center wall for his 1st home run of the season. The next three Loggers reached base on hits, including a triple by Grant Fennell, scoring Mason McCoy (Iowa) and Lorenzo Hampton Jr. (California). Randy Labaut brought in the tying run with a sacrifice fly to deep center field.
Willmar did not let the change in momentum overtake them. The Stingers scratched out the Loggers’ comeback with four runs on 2 hits, 2 walks, 2 hit batters, and 2 wild pitches.
The comeback kids did threaten in their final at-bats. Justin Wylie (San Diego State) walked and scored on a double to the left field corner by second baseman Cullen Large. Large advanced to 3rd on a throwing error by the right fielder. Mason McCoy walked and stole 2nd base to put both runners in scoring position with the tying run up the plate. Lorenzo Hampton Jr. nearly hit a 2-2 out of the park, but it trailed foul. He ended up grounding out to 1st base, but Large did score on the play. The second comeback fell short after Grant Fennell struck out looking to end the wild contest.
La Crosse falls to 14-11 on the season with their 3rd consecutive loss. Willmar breaks their own 3-game losing streak to end up at 12-13. La Crosse and Willmar square off again tomorrow. Game time is 5:05 pm.