Willmar 5-4 winners in dramatic fashion

WILLMAR, Minn.—After taking the early lead in Monday night's game, the Stingers fell behind in the the middle innings and needed heroics in the late going to tie and eventually win. But with two runs from the recently arrived Casey Hughston, Willmar found a way to squeak out the win with minimal late offense, using an error to score the decisive fifth run in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Thunder Bay 5-4 for the second straight night.

In the eighth inning the Stingers let a one-out double by Frankie Rios go to waste, as the two final batters in the inning struck out against Thunder Bay's Devin McLemore, leaving pinch runner Sean Beesley at second base. However, in the next inning the Stingers got a double for the second straight frame, and this time with no one out, they would not let it go to waste.

Alex Borglin came in to pinch hit for Max Ayoub and his only aim at the plate was to move Hughston to third base with a sacrifice bunt. Following two balls from McLemore, Borglin attempted to lay a bunt down but popped it up into foul territory down the third base line. Thunder Bay catcher Christian Correa dove to try to make the catch for the first out but his glove narrowly missed to give Borglin another try. On the next offering by McLemore, Borglin got the bunt down on the third base side, and McLemore fielded it. But after checking to see if he had a play at third, McLemore let a hasty throw go to first base to try to nab the speedy Borglin and the throw sailed wide into the outfield grass. Hughston rounded third and came into score the game-winner in the first walk-off win of the season for the Stingers.

Kurt Yinger started on the mound for Willmar in his season debut and after a spotless top of the first, he began to run into some trouble against the Border Cats' hitters. Thunder Bay did most of its damage against Yinger in the third inning when it put up three runs on five hits that included a double.

Yinger eventually came out of the game in the fifth inning with one out after he gave up another run that extended the Border Cats' lead to 4-2. With one already on base when he came in, Will Lydon walked two batters to fill the bases, but he got a fielder's choice grounder to shortstop Frankie Rios to end the threat. 

Lydon held serve in the final three innings he pitched to give the Stingers a chance at the comeback. The Stingers struck for one run in the bottom of the fifth to bring the game back to one run when Nick Rivera singled in Dan Motl from third base, which followed Motl's leadoff hit that started the bottom of the fifth.

The tying run came two innings later and scored without the help of any hits. Rivera led off with a walk, but got put out at second on a fielder's choice on Hughston's ground ball. Two more walks in the inning to Ayoub and Troy Kuhn set the Stingers up with the bases loaded and only one out. Brian Pruett then did all he had to and sent a fly ball to right field that was plenty deep for Hughston to score from third and tie the game.

Lydon worked one more scoreless inning in the top of the eighth, and after the missed opportunity in the bottom of the eighth, Josh Matheson came on in the top of the ninth. Matheson shut the door for the fourth straight inning on the Border Cats with a one, two, three top half, giving the chance for the heroics of Hughston and the walk-off error in the bottom of the ninth. The walk-off win gave the Stingers five wins in six tries during the six-game homestand, the Stingers' longest of the season.

Matheson (1-0) earned the win after working the ninth, while McLemore (0-1) suffered the loss.

Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Casey Hughston. CDI is your local medical imaging provider. It’s your choice where you go for medical imaging, for MRI, CT, mammograms and pain injections, choose CDI. Visit online at