College Baseball: Waterloo sinks Stingers
WILLMAR — The Waterloo Bucks beat out the Willmar Stingers for a postseason spot by 1.5 games during the first half of the Northwoods League season.
On Wednesday, they showed why with a 6-2 win over the Stingers at Bill Taunton Stadium.
“They’re a very good team,” Stingers’ manager Matt Hollod said. “It seems like every hitter in their lineup is hitting .300, every pitcher that comes in has an ERA in the twos or below and they play really good defense.”
They don’t quite have every hitter over .300, but they had six in Wednesday’s lineup, including two of the top seven in the NWL.
Waterloo broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning Stingers’ reliever Zack Tillery with a Chesny Young leadoff walk and a single by Jake Mahon off the glove of Willmar second baseman Tyler Leffler that scored Young, who had stolen second.
John Ziznewski and Connor McClain followed with singles to bring in Mahon, who barely avoided the tag of catcher Brian Olson. After McClain stole second, Will Sparks lined a single to right just out of the reach of right fielder Michael Suchy that cleared the bases.
“They have a lot of speed,” Hollod said. “Brian did a good job tonight and threw out a couple guys, but they have a lot of speed to put pressure on you. Not only on stolen bases, but ground balls in the infield.”
The Bucks also flashed some rare power — they came into the game last in the NWL in home runs — and took a quick 2-0 lead with home runs in the first and third innings.
Young took Stingers’ starter Colin Poche deep with two outs in the first on a 3-2 pitch to dead-center that hit the centerfield camera, and Ziznewski blasted one out to deep right-center in the third. It was the first homer of the season for both players.
Willmar flexed its muscles in retaliation, tying the game on homers from Marc Flores in the fourth and Nick Halamandaris in the fifth.
Flores’ shot was the first hit off Waterloo starter T.J. Renda, and was one of only three Willmar managed in the game.
Renda struck out four over five innings, and three different Waterloo relievers pitched four hitless innings to finish off the game.
Tillery got tagged with the four sixth-inning runs and took the loss.
“Tillery wasn’t on tonight and he’ll be the first one to say it,” Hollod said. “We need guys to come in in those situations and step up. He didn’t dod the job tonight but that’s the way it goes.”
Willmer fell to 3-3 and are in fifth place in the NWL North Division. They’ll face Waterloo 7:05 p.m. today at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Notes: The Stingers set their franchise attendance record with a gate of 1,847.