Waterloo falls in thrilling back-and-forth 7-6 final at Willmar

The Waterloo Bucks (7-2) erased a 3-0 deficit and held a 6-4 lead through seven and a half but went on to fall 7-6 at the hands of the Willmar Stingers (7-2) on Tuesday evening. Waterloo allowed a season-high 14 hits in the loss, but the Bucks still hold a 2.0-game lead in the Great Plains-East standings and own a share in the Northwoods League’s best record.

Trailing 3-0 entering the fourth, Daniel Irisarri (0-for-4, BB, R) drew a walk and Gabe Garcia (1-for-5, R) singled to open the frame. Willmar’s pitcher exited with an injury a pitch into Garrett McGowan’s (1-for-4, R, 2B, RBI) at-bat, and the reliever promptly surrendered an RBI double to the Bucks’ first baseman. A wild pitch scored Garcia and moved McGowan to third, then Max Jung-Goldberg (1-for-3, RBI, SF) plated the latter with a sacrifice fly to left. Two batters later, Emi Gonzalez (2-for-3, HBP, 2 R, SB) and Gabe Baldovino (1-for-3, BB, R, SB) rapped back-to-back singles followed by an RBI base knock off the bat of Paul Steffensen (2-for-4, RBI, SB) that scored Gonzalez and gave the Bucks a 4-3 lead.

After the Stingers tied things back up at four, Gonzalez and Baldovino reached with a single and a walk respectively one out into the sixth. The pair executed a double-steal, drawing a throw to third that ricocheted off the man covering and bled into shallow left in the five-hole. Gonzalez scored on the throw, then the shortstop’s throw to third trying to nab Baldovino sailed and the Bucks’ runner collided with Willmar’s third baseman, resulting in obstruction being called and Waterloo extending their lead to 6-4.

Braden Burcham shone in relief for the Bucks, going 4.0 innings of four-hit baseball while allowing just one unearned run and zero walks to go with three strikeouts.

Willmar plated three in the eighth to secure the win.

The Bucks and Stingers wrap up their series on Wednesday, June 6 at 7:05 p.m. CST in Willmar.