WILLMAR -- Senior Dean Stier carried the load but sophomore Adam Nibaur saved the day as the Willmar Cardinals baseball team started their spring campaign with a 3-2 win over Central Lakes Conference foe Sartell on Thursday at Baker Field.
Stier, who allowed both Sabre runs in the fourth, walked the first two hitters in the seventh and then got his 11th strikeout.
Coach Mark Stier took the ball from his son at that point and handed it to the untested sophomore, one of four sophomores who marked their varsity debut.
Responding like a veteran, Nibaur fanned Sam Neeser, who had one of the three Sabre hits, on three pitches and got the next batter, Sartell's No. 9 hitter, with a strike on a 2-and-2 count.
Willmar won their season opener with just three hits; the defense helped, though with the left-hander Stier picking off on a pair of Sabres and catcher Jason Gunvalson throwing out a third.
Stier, hitting in the No. 3 spot, drove in Tony McCleary with the go-ahead run in the bottom of sixth. McCleary had singled leading off the inning and advanced on the second of two Trey Tollefson sacrifice bunts that figured in Willmar scores.
McCleary, one of three sophomores who started, reached on an error and scored Willmar's first run as Willmar posted a 2-0 lead in the first. Sophomore Patrick Conroy, on a 3-and-2 pitch, singled in McCleary and Jason Gunvalson, who had walked.
Sartell tied it 2-2 in the fourth on a pair of hits and a Willmar error in the outfield.
Stier walked 3 and allowed 4 hits.
Also looking sharp of the hill, the Sabres' Blake Guggenberger was the loser, though he allowed only two hits and 1 walk over 5 innings before going to shortstop after the fifth inning.
Willmar 3, Sartell 2
Sartell (0-1, 0-1) 000 200 0 -- 2 4 1
Willmar (1-0, 1-0) 200 001 x -- 3 3 2
HITTING - Sartell: Troy Monson 1-for-3, Dylan Hollenkamp 1-for-3, Sam Neeser 1-for-3, Alex Omann 1-for-4, 2b ... Willmar: Tony McCleary 1-for-3, 2 runs, Dean Stier 1-for-3, rbi; Patrick Courtney 1-for-2, 2 rbi
PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) -- Sartell: Blake Guggenberger 5-1-2-2-1-5, Max Koprea (L) 1-2-1-1-2-1 ... Willmar: Dean Stier (W) 6Zc-5-2-0-3-11, Adam Nibaur (S) Xc-0-0-0-0-2