WILLMAR–Exciting. Exhilarating. Encouraging. Playoff-like. All these words describe what was likely, if not certainly, the most compelling game the Stingers have played in their inaugural season. Battling back numerous times to tie the game in the late innings, Willmar beat the Rochester Honkers 5-4 in ten innings on Thursday at Bill Taunton Stadium, winning their three game series 2-1 and wrapping up the regular season series against their potential playoff opponents, 7-3.
Things started off innocently enough, with both teams scoring a third inning run to even the score at one apiece. After a fifth inning tally for Rochester, the Stingers tied up the ballgame with a Mitch Delfino RBI groundout in the bottom of the seventh. After looking steady in his first inning of relief, Jayson Huett gave two runs in the top of the eighth in what looked to be the deciding frame.
But looks can be deceiving, and the Stingers proved that saying true in the bottom of the inning, scratching and clawing their way back to even thanks to a pair of sacrifice flies from Nate Johnson and Carlos Leyva to tie the game. As if that eighth inning rally wasn’t thrilling enough, Stinger fans were on the ropes again in the ninth when Jacob Barnes found himself in a huge jam. After walking two batters and giving up a hit to Rochester’s cleanup man Chris Elder, Barnes had the bases loaded and just one out. But somehow, the Florida Gulf Coast righty was able to bear down and strike out Ryan Hambright, who was four for four at the time, and get Andrew Mendenhall to bounce back to the mound to end the inning.
After a scoreless bottom of the ninth for Willmar’s offense, Barnes finally cracked in the top of the tenth, allowing a run on a Josef Terry single. But just when the Stingers seemed dead in the water, the bottom of the order came through in a huge way as Joe Sever and Nate Johnson came up with a pair of one out singles, and Matt Serna delivered his 23rd RBI of the season, driving in pinch hitter Mikey Reynolds for a walk off single to left center.
With the win, the Stingers guaranteed themselves at least a share of first place as they head north of the border for the first time this season on Friday for a two game set with the Thunder Bay Border Cats. Willmar returns home on Monday, August 9th for Shirts Off Our Back Night presented by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. During the first of three games against the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers, the Stingers will be auctioning off game worn jerseys with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the Willmar Area Food Shelf. For tickets, call 320-222-2010 or log on to willmarstingers.com for more information. We remind you to check out wctrib.com for all your Stingers coverage. The 2010 season is presented by Charter.