June 2nd, THUNDER BAY, ON, CA – It came down to the final pitch; and though it always does, this game seemed over well before the ninth inning. The Stingers scored nine unanswered runs across seventh and eighth innings, but fell just shy of a highly improbable comeback in a 13-11 loss against Thunder Bay.
The game began inauspiciously for Willmar (2-3) as Zack Tillery gave up three runs in the first and was replaced by Colton Bottomley. The Stingers went down in order over the first two innings and trailed 4-0 until the top of the fourth when a Nick Halamandaris (Cal-Berkely) doubled and a Thunder Bay error keyed the Stingers to score two runs in the frame.
But whatever momentum Willmar may have gained was mitigated in the home half when Thunder Bay extended its lead with three runs of its own. Equally lamentable for Stinger Nation was the bottom of the fifth when the Border Cats whacked their second home run of the series.
At the end of five, Thunder Bay (2-3) led 12-2 and it seemed as though the game was already over. But through wit, grit and spit the Stingers posted eight runs in the seventh to send a jolt of energy trough Port Arthur Stadium.
The inning began with a Karl Sorensen (St. Cloud) walk, a Steven Brault single and a groundout by Jake Gronsky (Monmouth) that plated Sorensen. Then four consecutive Stingers reached base safely beginning with an RBI double by Marc Flores (Hawaii). After Max Kuhn (Kentucky) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Tyler Leffler atoned for a pair of errors with a 2-RBI single to left that cut the Thunder Bay lead to five runs. After Sorensen’s second at-bat of the inning led to a walk that loaded the bases once more, Brault stung a ball past first base into the right field corner to plate a pair.
The Border Cats were then held scoreless in the home half of the seventh and a Kuhn rocket to left-center field brought the score to 12-11 and set the stage for a tension-filled finish. However, the Border Cats narrowly escaped as the Stingers left three runners on base in the final two innings.
NOTES: Everyone in the lineup either scored or drove in a run. Kyle Perry extended his hitting streak to five games. The team batting average improved from .198 to .250 over the last two games. 11 runs marks the most runs in a game for Willmar this season.