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For the first time, Stingers are heading to the second round

Willmar, Minn.- What a night at Bill Taunton Stadium. The Willmar Stingers are moving on to the second round of the Northwoods League Playoffs after defeating the Mankato MoonDogs by a score of 8-7 in walk-off fashion in 10 innings.

It wasn’t the start the Stingers had imagined, going down 7-2 after 4.5 innings of play. In bottom of the fifth, all that changed. The inning started with Nic Hernandez (Cal Poly Pomona) blasting a solo homer over the center field wall and making it 7-3, but that only started the flurry of Willmar runs. Later in the inning, it was Tyler Reichenborn (St. Louis) driving in Eli Wilson (Minnesota) with an RBI single to make it 7-4. Shea Kramer (Utah) made it 7-5 with a sacrifice fly to center field bringing in John Trousdale (Alabama) from third base. The very next batter, Eric Yang (UC-Santa Barbara), singled in Reichenborn to make it a 7-6 ball game. Then Matt Rudick (San Diego St.) struck. Rudick doubled into right-center field and drove in Eric Yang all the way from first base. After five, Willmar tied it up at seven and it was the bullpen’s turn to take over. The Stingers never looked back.

Nick Mears (Sac City) came in for Willmar and went three innings. In the three innings, Mears did something incredible. Mears struck out nine Mankato batters and did not give up a single run.

“I’ve never seen anything like that in a game that I have taken part in,” teammate John Trousdale said. “It was unbelievable.”

After Mears, Ben Mora came on and kept it a 7-7 tie.

The game went into extra innings and in the 10th, John Trousdale had his own moment to shine. With runners on first and second Mankato’s Zach Hardy (New Mexico St.) delivered a fastball to Trousdale, who ripped a walk-off single into right field driving in Matt Rudick from second, giving the Stingers the 8-7 victory.

The win marked the first time the Stingers have advanced to the second round of the NWL playoffs in franchise history. Willmar will take on Duluth tomorrow night at Bill Taunton Stadium, with first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

The 2018 Stingers season is presented by Marcus Construction. For more coverage of the Stingers visit the West Central Tribune online at www.wctrib.com.