WILLMAR — Willmar’s Tyler Leffler hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the fifth inning, Andrew Woeck pitched well in his Stingers debut, bolstered by a bullpen that had four strike outs in the final two innings of a 6-3 Northwoods League victory over Rochester on Monday at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Marc Flores had two doubles, driving in one run and scoring another, and Danny Brennan had a run-scoring double in the sixth as the Stingers kept pace with North Division-leading Waterloo.
The Stingers (21-11) are a game back of the Bucks (22-10) with four games remaining in the league’s first-half race. The Stingers have the tougher road ahead, literally, if they hope to wrap up a postseason spot early.
They complete a suspended game against third-place Duluth (19-13) beginning at 5:05 p.m. today. Willmar then plays a regularly scheduled game against the Huskies at 7:35 p.m. today, and a third game against the Huskies on Wednesday before finishing the first half against last-place Alexandria on Thursday.
All four games are on the road.
Waterloo plays two games against Mankato and two against Rochester, both 17-16, with three games at home.
On Monday, Rochester struck first on Alex Greer’s solo home run in the second. But Woeck, a junior from North Carolina State, settled in after that. He worked seven innings, scattering seven hits, walking one and striking out eight.
In the fifth, Logan Moon reached on an error and came around to score on Chris Barnett’s fielders choice. With two outs, Leffler lifted a two-run shot to put Willmar up 3-1.
The Stingers struck for two more runs in the sixth. Flores doubled and scored on Zach Tillery’s single and Brennan doubled in Tillery to make it 5-1 Stingers.
Rochester cut into the lead with two runs in the seventh but Willmar got it back in the bottom of the inning when Leffler was hit by a pitch and came around on Flores’ second double of the game.
Stingers reliever T.J. Whidby struck out the side in the eighth and Bret Dahlson set the Honkers down in order in the ninth.