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Stingers find silver lining among dark first-half clouds

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sports Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The Willmar Stingers would do well to wrap up a Northwoods League playoff spot this week because doing so in the second half of the season could prove difficult, given the weather-related setbacks of the last two weeks.

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The NWL crowns first-half and second-half champions during the 72-game regular season. After Wednesday’s 3-2 win over La Crosse, the Stingers sit in first place of the North Division with an 19-6 record, leading Waterloo (20-10) by 1.5 games and Rochester (17-12) by 4 games.

The Stingers have five first-half games remaining compared to six for Waterloo and Mankato.

The Stingers have to make up six games lost to poor weather and field conditions since June 9, but all five will be made up in the second half of the season, which begins July 2.

That means the Stingers will play 30 first-half games compared to Waterloo’s and Mankato’s 36. Division champions are decided by winning percentage, which gives the Stingers a decided advantage as the first half winds down.

After Wednesday’s game, if the Stingers finished the first half with a 2-3 record in its last six games, Waterloo would have to finish 6-0 to have a better winning percentage, said Stingers’ owner Ryan Voz, noting that Willmar defeated Waterloo in both first-half games to give the Stingers’ the edge should the race come down to a head-to-head tiebreaker.

“We’re in the driver’s seat if we can win a few more games,” Voz said.

But if the Stingers stumble and don’t win the first half, they’d face a tough task in the second half, having to play 42 games — the regular 36 games plus the six make-up games — compared to the rest of the division’s 36-game slate.

“We’re going to have to be red hot in the second half to have that shot,” Voz said.

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