Rochester, Minn. — Now isn't such a bad time for the Stingers to get hot.
After starting out with an even record through its first 16 games, Willmar has begun to hit its stride lately and that continued Friday night in Rochester. Behind a gritty performance from its offense and pitching staff, the Stingers (14-9) outlasted the Honkers 7-3 at Mayo Field to claim a share of first place in the North Division for the first time this season.
In his second start of the season, Kiko Garcia gave the Stingers a quality outing, and the offense scored in the early going to put the Stingers on top. Troy Dixon led off the second inning for Willmar by reaching on an error, went to second on a single by Kyle Gilbert, advanced to third on a fielder's choice, and then was brought home on Brian Pruett's RBI single to make it 1-0 in Willmar's favor.
From there, the two teams would battle back and forth the rest of the way. Rochester tied the score at one with a single run in the bottom of the third inning, and then neither side scored again until the sixth inning. In that sixth inning, the Stingers took the lead once more with a pair of runs to make it 3-1. After a walk and two hits to load the bases with no one out, Lucas Tancas brought home one run when he grounded into a double play, and a passed ball allowed Kyle Gilbert to score from third to make it 3-1.
Again the Honkers (14-9) struck back right on cue an inning later in the bottom of the seventh to tie the score, but it didn't remain that way for long. The Stingers wouldn't be denied the win, and came right back with a run in the top of the eighth to take the lead for good. Tyler Leffler led off the frame with a single and two batters later Justin Thaxton drove him in with an RBI single to put the Stingers ahead again. They would go on to score three more times in the ninth, as Brady Anderson closed the door in the bottom half of the ninth without allowing a run.
The Stingers have now won six of their last seven games and seven of the last nine to get into first place. They will go for the sweep of Rochester tomorrow night.
The 2015 season is presented by Marcus Construction. For more coverage of the Stingers visit the West Central Tribune online at www.wctrib.com.
Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Justin Thaxton. 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.
The Willmar Stingers are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 22nd season of summer collegiate baseball in 2015, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 120 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (WAS), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (TB). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website. For more information, visit www.willmarstingers.com.