Stingers fend off Lunkers, 5-3
BRAINERD -- The Willmar Stingers survived a bases-loaded scare in the bottom of the eighth inning and then scored twice in the ninth for a 5-3 Northwood League win over the Brainerd Lunkers Monday night.
Stingers starter Dan Russell worked a solid 71/3 innings, allowing two runs and scattering seven hits. He didn't walk a batter and struck out three to run his record to 5-2.
Willmar improved to 9-9 in the second half of the season. The Stingers and Lunkers meet at 7:05 p.m. today in the second of a three-game set at Stewart C. Mills Stadium in Brainerd.
Mitch Delfino had two hits and drove in two runs, including what turned out to be the game-winner in the ninth.
John Haberman had three hits and drove in the Stingers' fifth run in the ninth inning.
The Lunkers took a 1-0 lead in the third inning, but the Stingers scored runs in the fourth and fifth innings when Pat Stover scored on a wild pitch and designated hitter Eduardo Gonzalez plated Mitch Rowan with a fielder's choice.
The Stingers pushed their edge to 3-1 in the seventh when Delfino singled in Leblebijian, who was hit by a pitch.
Russell left the game with one out in the eighth and Stingers reliever Thomas Taylor expertly worked out of a jam to limit the Lunkers to a single run. Brainerd's Matt Hillsinger led off with a single and later scored on Vince Bruno's single. With one out and the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second, Taylor struck out Nick Hamilton, then walked Dan Olinger intentionally to load the bases before striking out Paul Toboni to end the threat.
Taylor surrendered a couple of hits and a run in the ninth but earned his first save by getting two fly ball outs to end the game.