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Tribune photo by Tom Larson Bill Taunton Stadium, home to the Willmar Stingers and other Willmar teams, wasn’t so much a field as a pond Sunday after roughly four inches of rain fell over the weekend on already sodden ground. Areas surrounding the stadium were under water, as well, making drainage of the field virtually impossible. The Stingers’ Saturday and Sunday games were postponed and the city and team will assess the situation while the team plays out of town on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Stingers washed out

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WILLMAR — At 14-4, the Willmar Stingers have the best record in the Northwoods League three weeks into the season.

They are winners of their last seven games, but their run has been put on hold with the Saturday and Sunday games against the Eau Claire Express being delayed by rain.

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The games will be made up July 19-20 when Eau Claire returns to Willmar.

Early Sunday, the field at Bill Taunton Stadium had standing water covering the entire infield and home plate area and extending into the outfield. The drainage area outside the stadium was also full to capacity.

City groundskeeper Ken Nelson said the water outside the stadium drains into a series of holding ponds, which then drain into the creek behind I&M Landscaping south of 19th Avenue Southwest.

 “We just have to wait for it to drain,” he said. “The holding ponds have to drop, and then the pond behind the stadium has to drop and then the water on the field will go away.” 

He said this amount of rain is unprecedented for the city in recent memory.

“I’ve worked for the city for 20 years and I’ve never seen it this bad before,” he said. “We’ve had it flooded where the mound has been underwater. We’ve never had water standing this period of time.”

The Stingers are not home again until Thursday against the St. Cloud Rox.

They will play at Rochester tonight and Tuesday and at St. Cloud on Wednesday.

The team’s early success is a result of pitching, defense and a balanced roster said manager Drew Saberhagen.

“It shows the true depth of your roster,” he said. “Temp guys, full-time guys, everyone is having to step in and make big contributions. Not just your top nine guys and top six arms, but the entire bullpen and entire bench.”

Saberhagen had glowing reports for the entire roster, but singled out infielders Alex Borglin and Reagan Fowler as early standouts.

“Borglin’s versatility has really helped us,” he said. “It’s good to have those kind of guys. Reagan Fowler being Big East co-Player of the Year, you knew he was going to be good, but that kid is special. We could just go on and on.”

Borglin, a redshirt freshman out of Central Michigan, is hitting .344 and is second on the team with a .475 on-base percentage. His nine stolen bases are tied for third in the Northwoods League.

Creighton’s Fowler is hitting .375, and though he’s only played in seven games, already has four doubles and five RBI.

Other early offensive standouts include Sean Beesley (.317 average, eight stolen bases) and Nick Rivera (.288 average, two home runs, 12 RBI).

On the pitching side, Brady Anderson is adjusting well to his new role as a starter with a 0.90 ERA through 20 innings, and Andrew Towns has a 1.66 ERA in 21.2 innings.

Austin Klein leads the team with 19 strikeouts in 22.1 innings with a 2.82 ERA.

Saberhagen said the team still not only has a ways to go for the first half but for the entire season, too.

“We’re just looking to keep our momentum,” he said.

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Ben Brewster

Ben Brewster covers the Willmar Stingers and other area sports, as well as laying out the daily sports section cover for the West Central Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @benbrewster.

(320) 214-4332
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