MANKATO, Minn. – Kenny Roberts gave the Willmar Stingers all the offense they would need for the night with two separate three-run homers to give the Stingers a 6-0 lead by the end of the third inning, which they narrowly held on to in a 6-5 victory over the MoonDogs at Franklin Rogers Park Sunday night.
Willmar (16-10) gained a game in the standings on Mankato (19-7), who currently leads the Northwoods League North Division. The Stingers are now three games out of first place with nine games remaining in the first half of the season. The winner of the first half of the season clinches a spot in the playoffs.
With two on and two out in the first inning, Roberts (Alabama) hit a home run down the left field line to score Forrestt Allday (Central Arkansas) and Hunter Dozier (Stephen F. Austin), giving the Stingers a 3-0 lead.
Roberts stepped to the plate in the exact same situation – Allday and Dozier in scoring position with two outs – in the third inning. Roberts drilled a 385-foot home run to center field to double the Stingers lead, tying him for the Northwoods League lead with five home runs. Roberts has picked up 11 of his 17 RBIs with two outs.
Mankato chipped away at its deficit with an unearned run in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth. With Willmar leading 6-3 in the ninth, the MoonDogs began to rally with one out. Chad Christensen singled, and Nick Ratajczak walked. Chase Fowler doubled to left field to score Christensen and Ratajczak, making it a one-run game with the tying run in scoring position. A two-out walk to Chase Simpson put the winning run on base, but Drew Stankiewicz flied out to the warning track in right field to secure a 6-5 Stingers victory.
Richie Navari (Louisiana Tech) earned his first victory of the season, surrendering three runs on four hits and six walks in 5.1 innings. Josh Biggs (Evansville) pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to set the game up for Brady Anderson (Florida Gulf Coast), who gave up two runs while getting the final four outs in a non-save situation.
Willmar will conclude its two-game road trip to Mankato with a Monday afternoon contest at 1:05 p.m.
The 2012 season is presented by Charter. For more information on your Willmar Stingers be sure to visit the West Central Tribune at www.wctrib.com.