Bucks Playoff March Stalled in Willmar; Playoffs to be Decided on Sunday
WILLMAR, MN The Waterloo Bucks lost their grasp on controlling their playoff future on Saturday with a conversion of factors. A dissapointing 4-2 loss in Willmar was compounded by a Mankato victory in Eau Claire, pushing the Bucks 1/2 game behind Mankato in the North Division playoff race with one game remaining in the regular season.
While not ideal, the Bucks are far from eliminated as they can still claim the second half title, and the postseason berth it brings with it, by winning on Sunday in Willmar and having Mankato lose their finale at Eau Claire. Other scenarios involving rain outs would also get the Bucks into the postseason but with no widespread rain in the forecast in either Willmar nor Eau Claire it appears the postseason will be rightly determined on the field.
On Saturday, the Bucks grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Kevin Kaczmarski's line drive to left center was knocked down, but not caught, by a diving left fielder plating Pat MacKenzie from second.
Willmar rallied to tie the score in the second on Brian Pruett's double into the leftfield corner. However, Bucks' starter Landon Simpson did a good job of pitching out of trouble throughout his five inning outing including stranding the go ahead runners in scoring position in both the second and third innings.
Waterloo reclaimed the lead on a Kaczmarski lead off homer to right field to start the fourth, and later in the inning Connor McClain doubled off the left field wall before being stranded their. Unfortunately, the McClain doubled represented the final time the Bucks would get a runner into scoring position for the rest of the game.
In the bottom of the fourth, another RBI double to left from Pruett tied the score. Then in the fifth, a one-out error allowed Reegan Fowler to reach and he'd score on Nick Rivera's double to left giving the Stingers a 3-2 lead.
Willmar added another run in the seventh when Rivera beat out a potential inning-ending ground ball double play, allowing Sean Beesley to come in from third to make the score 4-2.
Despite the loss, Kaczmarski had a pair of hits, driving in both of the Bucks' runs and extending his hit streak to 25 games. On the mound, Landon Simpson wasn't dominant but gave the Bucks a chance throwing five innings allowing three runs but only two were earned. Derek Burkamper came in for three innings of relief yielding one run while also pitching out of a jam in the eighth inning that kept the Bucks in the ballgame.