The Waterloo Bucks (8-2) received fifth-inning heroics from Garrett McGowan (1-for-4, R, HR, RBI) and Paul Steffensen (1-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI) while Blaze Pontes (4.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, BB, 5 K) and Cameron Repetti (W, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 K) shoved as the Bucks earned a 4-2 win over the Willmar Stingers (7-3) on Wednesday evening, picking up a split. Thanks to a La Crosse loss in Duluth, Waterloo moves back to 3.0 games ahead in the Great Plains-East standings and now have won seven of their last eight.
Pontes tossed 4.0 innings in his first start of the summer, piling up 14 swinging strikes on 59 pitches while working at a 76.5% first-pitch strike rate and generating grounders at a 72.7% clip to go with five punchouts. Repetti picked up the win in relief with 5.0 dominant frames, pounding the zone with a 76.1% strike rate (67:51) while striking out four.
After an unearned run scored in the bottom of the fourth, Gabe Garcia helped get the Bucks out of the inning by gunning down a baserunner with an absolute missile of a throw from right to third base.
McGowan promptly knotted things back up in the fifth with a towering solo home run to left-center on a 2-2 pitch. Emi Gonzalez (0-for-2, HBP, R) was hit by a pitch and Daniel Irisarri (1-for-4, R) laced a single into right, followed by a flyout. Gabe Baldovino (0-for-2, BB, R) drew a walk to load the bases, then a strikeout brought Steffensen to the plate with two away. Willmar brought in a new pitcher to face Waterloo’s centerfielder, quickly getting ahead of the Bucks leadoff man 1-2. Steffensen blasted the next offering into the right-center alley, clearing the bases and giving Waterloo a 4-1 lead.
Willmar would plate one unearned run in the fifth.
The Bucks travel to Eau Claire on Thursday for a 6:35 p.m. CST first pitch, opening a two-game road series against the Express.