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Final push: Late comeback helps Stingers finish first half with win

Duluth, Minn. — Until the final out is recorded, don’t count the Stingers out.

For the fourth time in the last six games, Willmar came back from a deficit and closed out the first half with yet another win in a 5-4 triumph over Duluth Tuesday night at Wade Stadium.

In their most impressive come-from-behind victory so far this season, the Stingers (23-11) trailed by four runs going to the top half of the ninth inning. But Willmar sent 10 batters to the plate in the ninth inning, scoring five times to take the lead and hang on for the win over the Huskies.

The big blow in the inning came from Justin Thaxton. After the Stingers scored twice on a single by Kyle Gilbert, Tyler Leffler reached on a single to put runners on first and second. Eddie Estrada grounded into a fielder’s choice to move Gilbert to third and put runners on the corners, which is when Thaxton came to the plate. On a 1-1 pitch, Thaxton drilled a home run to right-center field to put the Stingers up 5-4.

Up until that ninth inning, the Huskies (20-16) had held the Stingers offense at bay, taking the shutout into the final frame. Willmar had just four hits through the first eight innings and only twice had runners in scoring position.

But that all changed in the ninth inning. Paul Funk started the rally when he reached on a throwing error by Huskies’ shortstop Nick Valaika. Then Reagan Fowler doubled down the left field line for his third two bagger in his first two games. That’s when Gilbert cut the lead in half to make it 4-2 and get the Stingers right back into it.

Will Lydon started for the Stingers, and although he allowed a season-high four runs, he still managed to remain undefeated with the late comeback that gave him a no-decision. Colton Boucher picked up the win in two innings of scoreless relief, and Brady Anderson worked a scoreless ninth to lock down his eighth straight save.

The Stingers return to the Bill Taunton Stadium Wednesday to start a two-game series with the Eau Claire Express.

The 2015 Stingers season is presented by Marcus Construction. For more coverage of the Stingers visit the West Central Tribune online at www.wctrib.com

CDI LogoTonight’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.