DULUTH, Minn.—The Stingers have battled back on multiple occasions so far this season, and Monday night in Duluth they displayed their resilience yet again. After falling in a 4-1 hole, Willmar used a four-run fifth inning and strong relief pitching to knock off the Huskies 6-4 at Wade Stadium to split the two-game series.
Willmar (25-11 overall, 3-3 second half) staked their starter Ben Gullo to an early lead with a run in the top of the second inning but Duluth (12-30, 3-3) scored immediately thereafter to take the lead back. Gullo, who was starting his first game, gave up three runs in the bottom of the second and had to leave after a lengthy inning on the mound in which he threw 35 pitches.
But after Gullo departed with the Stingers trailing 3-1, the bullpen held serve to keep the Huskies lead within catching distance. Brantley Claunch relieved Gullo and worked three solid innings in relief. Claunch allowed three hits total and a single run, walking just one batter with the lone run coming against him in the fourth inning. A double and single started the frame and Nolan Rogers brought in the run with a bunt to the left side of the infield.
Facing their largest deficit of the road trip, the Stingers responded right back in the top of the fifth inning to take the lead. Troy Kuhn who went 2×3 at the plate started the inning with a sharp single into left field, and Sean Beesley followed suit with his second straight hit to start out his night. Dan Motl then walked to fill the bases, giving Hutton Moyer the chance to get Willmar right back into the contest. Moyer capitalized and ripped a single right back through the box into centerfield to plate Kuhn and Beesley. After Reagan Fowler bounced out to move Motl and Moyer up a base, Nick Rivera mashed a double to left-center to give Willmar the lead for good.
From there on out the Stingers bullpen took advantage of the newfound lead, holding the Huskies scoreless over the final five innings. Claunch worked the fifth and then Geislinger came on in the sixth and faced the bare minimum nine batters in his three innings. The lone hit came on an infield single, which Geislinger came within a few inches of making a play on. Brady Anderson worked the ninth and got three groundouts to earn his fourth save of the season, which gave Claunch his third win.
The 2014 season is presented by Charter. For more coverage of the Stingers visit the West Central Tribune’s website at www.wctrib.com.
Stingers limited edition playoff shirts will also be handed out to the first 250 adults at Thursday night's game against St. Cloud.
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.