WATERLOO, Iowa—After the only complete game shutout in the Northwoods League in his second start on the mound six days ago, Stingers' southpaw Andrew Towns took back to the rubber Wednesday night against the Waterloo Bucks. Towns went six innings this time, and again earned the win in a 7-2 triumph, giving Willmar sole possession of first place in the North Division.
For the second straight night things started slowly for each offense with neither team scoring for the first two innings. Willmar began the game with a scoring opportunity when Sean Beesley walked with one out and Reagan Fowler singled, but the next batter Casey Hughston grounded into a double play to end the top of the first inning and the scoring threat.
Towns, meanwhile, had little trouble against the Bucks' lineup and shut down the first five hitters he saw in the game. After surrendering the first hit with two out in the bottom of the second, Towns came back to get Waterloo catcher Blake Berger to ground out and end the frame.
The Stingers (12-4) came back in the next half inning and staked their starter to a two-run lead with seven men going to the plate in the inning. Hunter Webb started the rally with an infield single and then stole second base with Sean Beesley at the plate. Beesley grounded out to first base, but that was enough to move Webb up to third. Reagan Fowler then laced a double down the line in left to plate Webb, and put himself in scoring position for Nick Rivera. With Rivera batting, Fowler moved to third on a wild pitch, which proved to be a crucial play as Fowler was able to score on Rivera's groundout a few pitches later.
Waterloo would answer in the bottom half of the third inning, but with the tying run at second, Towns got a fly ball to limit the damage to just one and keep Willmar in the lead.
After trading runs in the sixth inning, the big turn of events came in the top of the ninth inning. After Waterloo had recorded the first out of the frame, Beesley kicked off the rally that proved to be the knockout punch in the win with his first hit of the night. Beesley singled sharply back up the middle and then promptly stole second base, his second steal of the night. Reagan Fowler brought in the big insurance run to make it a 4-2 game with his third hit of the night.
The Stingers weren't done there, though. After Scotty Smith came in to run for Fowler and stole second base, Rivera walked and Hughston singled in Smith from second. A passed ball allowed Hughston and Dan Motl, running for Rivera, to move up to second and third, and Motl came across for the third run of the inning when Bucks' right fielder Jon McAllister dropped Max Ayoub's fly ball. Hughston would eventually score on Alex Borglin's single, as the Stingers opened up the floodgates to take a five-run lead to the bottom of the ninth.
Ben Gullo stayed on for his third inning of work in the bottom of the ninth with the lead well in hand, and after allowing two base runners to start the inning, he stopped the final three hitters cold to preserve the fifth Stingers' victory in a row.
Towns moved to 2-0 on the season, while Dane Dunning suffered his first loss of the year in his first start for Waterloo. With the victory and the second straight loss by the St. Cloud Rox, the Stingers also moved into first place.
Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Reagan Fowler. 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 myCDI.com/CentralMN.