WILLMAR, MN – The Stingers needed one; Max Kuhn gave them three. Kuhn (Kentucky) jolted the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence for a walk-off home run that sent Stinger Nation into full throat. The uproar of the 1,000-plus fans in attendance at Bill Taunton Stadium shook the grandstand as teammates swarmed the plate, reveling in their improbable 9-6 comeback victory over the Duluth Huskies (7-3).
A slow start for Willmar stretched into the second half of the game in which they trailed throughout. Duluth scored two runs apiece in three straight innings to put the game at a seemingly safe distance, but the Stingers’ resolve enabled them to chip away bit by bit.
It began in the sixth inning when Alec Solé worked the count for a walk and Steven Brault jumped on a first pitch that sent Solé first-to-third. With Michael Suchy batting, a snap throw to first base went awry and Solé (St. Louis) plated Willmar’s first run. The Stingers added two more in the seventh when, following a Kuhn walk and a Karl Sorensen (St. Cloud) single, Tyler Leffler cracked a one-out, two-RBI double into right field.
The Stingers continued to plug away at the deficit in the eighth inning, adding another run on a bomb over the fence in right by Suchy. Suchy’s homer cut the lead to 6-4.
The rally in the ninth began when Solé was hit by a pitch followed by Brault’s second double and third overall hit of the game. Then, Marc Flores demonstrated his savvy when he shortened his swing on a 1-2 pitch and guided a ball up in the zone to score both runs and tie the game. Duluth then made a strategic move to walk Suchy, tacitly challenging Kuhn to win the game. And win the game he did.
Josh Matheson earned the win, pitching 2.1 innings of excellent relief in his first appearance of the season. Matheson came in to work out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh and closed the show thereafter.
The victory sets the stage for Saturday’s contest in which a Willmar win would place them in a tie for first.