2017 Season Review: Another One for the Books
WILLMAR, Minn. — The Willmar Stingers continued their success in 2017 by once again amassing 41 wins in the regular season. It was their sixth straight year that they accomplished that feat, which extends the Stingers’ league record of five in a row.
Going 41-31, they had the third-best overall record in the North Division in 2017. In the second half, they finished only one game back from the division leaders, going 23-13 leading into their fourth straight playoff berth.
They won at least six of their eight meetings against four different teams in the North, including Waterloo, La Crosse, Rochester and Thunder Bay.
They excelled on the mound, posting an opposing batting average of .246, which goes for sixth-best in the Northwoods League.
In addition, the pitchers were backed by a stellar defense that committed the second-fewest errors on the year and posting a .970 fielding percentage. They also completed 78 double plays on the year, which was second-most in the NWL.
They were led on the mound by All-Stars Gus Varland (Concordia-St. Paul) and Polo Portela (Sac City). Both pitchers finished the year with 50.2 innings pitched, holding their opponents to a sub-1.5 ERA. Varland gave up only eight earned runs, while Portela gave up seven, as they totaled 86 strikeouts.
Third baseman Nolan Bumstead (CS-Northridge) broke a new NWL record by starting in all 72 games of the 2017 season. He started every game at third base, including one playoff game. Throughout the season, he drove in 43 runs, which was fifth-most in the league. In addition, he totaled 19 doubles, which was third-most.
Center fielder Marcus Still (New Mexico State) stole 38 total bases which set a Stingers franchise record for a single season and also led the league.
Josh Bissonette (Baylor) led the team in average, hitting .299. Danny Rodriguez (Bethune-Cookman) followed closely behind, hitting .293 and hitting eight home runs.
Rodriguez was one of two players to tie a Stingers record with six RBIs in one game. He did it on July 12 with two home runs (one of which was a grand slam), while Alex Reyes (New Mexico State) did it on July 28 against the Honkers. Reyes, who normally pitched out of the bullpen, had only registered six at bats on the season prior to that evening.
Tyler Reichenborn (Iowa Western) finished second in the league with six triples on the season.
Four Stingers were honored as All-Stars in July. Still, Varland, Portela and Bumstead all participated in the All-Star Game. Bumstead also joined on for the North in the Home Run Derby, hitting three "Stinger Dingers" in the event.
Still, Portela and Varland were also recognized as postseason All-Stars at the conclusion of the season.
Seven Stingers participated in this year's Major League Dreams Showcase, including Still, Rodriguez, Varland, Nick Lackney (Minnesota), Bissonette, Nick Mears (Sac City) and Reyes.
Lackney qualified by holding opponents to a stingy .233 batting average and allowing only one home run in over 50 innings pitched.
Mears clocked pitches in the upper nineties and did not give up a run this season in 9.1 innings. He finished with a 2-0 win-loss record and tacked on two saves.
The Stingers went 21-15 in home games this season, performing at Bill Taunton Stadium in front of a total of 37,277 fans throughout the season. Another successful season could not have happened without the overwhelming support of the community!
For information on the 2018 season, stay tuned on WillmarStingers.com. For advertising, season ticket inquiries, or group outings, you can call the Stingers front office at 320-222-2010.
The Stingers will return to action in May 2018.
On Friday Aug. 25, the Stingers will be hosting the annual Dueling Duo Night. They’d love to have you join for a great evening out at the ballpark!
The 2017 Stingers season is presented by Marcus Construction. For more coverage of the Stingers, visit the West Central Tribune online at www.wctrib.com.