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Well worth the wait: Stingers defeat Honkers in 16 innings

ROCHESTER, Minn.—In their first game since Wednesday night, the Stingers made up for lost time by playing in the longest game this season in the Northwoods League. Willmar would not go the 16 innings just to come out on the losing side, though, and thanks to an error in the top of the 16th frame and some clutch pitching and defense throughout extras, the Stingers topped Rochester 6-2.

A game that could have ended in a loss several times throughout the extra innings finally drew to a close in the top of the 16th inning when Willmar (17-5) struck for four hits, which was just its second multi-hit inning of the game. The turning point came with the bases loaded, two outs and Jack Ross at the plate. Ross sent what appeared to be a routine grounder to Honkers' shortstop Connor Schaefbauer, who tried to make the flip to second base to end the inning. But while fielding the ball and making the transition to make the flip, Schaefbauer bobbled and by the time he regained composure he had no play at second base. Max Dutto then followed by lacing a single through the left side of the infield to score two more huge runs and push the lead to three. One more insurance run came into score when Brett Barbier hit a slow roller up the middle to drive in Ross.

Josh Matheson stayed on in the bottom of the 16th and although he allowed two baserunners, he came back to get the final two Rochester (14-12) batters and put an end to the 4 hour, 20 minute affair, picking up the win in the process.

Three innings prior, Willmar had almost lost the game without even giving up a hit. In his first outing of the season, AJ Puckett walked the bases loaded in the bottom of the 13th with only one out. But Puckett came back to strike out Anthony Sequiera looking on a fastball on the outside corner and then got a shallow fly ball to tip-toe out of the threat.

During the tenth inning, Corey Hassel almost hit a walk-off home run off Puckett, barely missing and ending up with a two-out double off the bottom of the wall. But Puckett came right back and struck out Jeff Campbell to end the threat.

The Stingers had trailed from the start of the game as Rochester scored one run apiece in the first two innings. But like they did during extras, Willmar held on and battled back to tie the game with single runs in the fifth and seventh innings. After Rochester starter Logan Spitzack left the game in the sixth inning, LJ Brewster came out of the bullpen and silenced the Stingers' bats, striking out four of the first batters he saw. But Nick Rivera changed the game with one swing when he blasted his third home run of the season over the right-center field fence to tie the game at two in the top of the seventh. Rivera drove in both of the first two runs and finished 3×6 at the plate with two runs scored as well.  

Andrew Towns received a no-decision after working six innings and giving up just two runs on seven hits. Will Lydon worked three scoreless innings of relief and Puckett gave up three runs in five strong innings of work out of the bullpen.

The 2014 season is presented by Charter. For more coverage of the Stingers visit wctrib.com.

Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Nick Rivera. 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.