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Over the hill: Stingers outslug Mallards to get to 40 wins

SPICER, Minn. — The Stingers have been a model of consistency since their inception in 2010, and they achieved yet another milestone on Saturday night. 

Willmar overcame a first-inning deficit, as Cole Gray and Eddie Estrada (Minnesota) both hit home runs to lead the Stingers to their 40th win of the season with an 11-8 victory over the Madison Mallards at Green Lake Diamond. 

After securing its third-straight playoff berth on Friday night, Willmar (40-31, 22-13 second half) ensured the fifth-straight season with 40 wins with the victory over the Mallards (43-28, 20-15). The Stingers are the only team with five-straight 40-win seasons and the only team with three consecutive playoff berths. 

A power surge led the way for the Stingers to help them overcome an early deficit for the second-straight night. Trailing 1-0 going to the bottom of the second, Willmar got its spark from Estrada. The second-year Stinger singled with one out in the second and eventually came around on an RBI single by Brandon Perez (USC). 

The Stingers then took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth with a four-run frame. Justin Toerner (Cal State Northridge) started the rally with a one-out single. After the Mallards recorded the second out of the inning, Luke Becker (Kentucky) singled to right field to keep the inning alive. Perez came through in the clutch with two outs, smashing a double to plate both runners and make it 3-1. Then Gray (Midland) followed with a two-run shot to right field to increase the lead to four. 

The Mallards responding in the fifth with a pair of runs, but Willmar had a rally of its own in the bottom half of the fifth to up the lead to five. Four straight batters reached in the bottom of the fifth for the Stingers, with Toerner singling in the first run of the frame. Estrada helped drive home another run in the inning and a wild pitch scored the third run. 

Estrada then put the game out of reach with his three-run blast in the bottom of the seventh inning, making it an 11-3 lead at that point. 

Brad Schaenzer (Kentucky) won his fourth straight game for the Stingers, allowing three runs in five innings on just four hits. His four-game win streak is tied for the longest for a Stingers pitcher this year. 

Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Eddie Estrada. 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 Stingers close out the regular season with a 6:05 p.m. matchup against the Mallards on Sunday night. Sunday night is Fan Appreciation Night presented by Fischer Laser Eye Center, featuring a 3D glasses giveaway and postgame fireworks. 

The 2016 Stingers season is presented by Marcus Construction. For more coverage of the Stingers visit the West Central Tribune online at www.wctrib.com.