Waterloo sinks Stingers on late wild pitch
WILLMAR — Two wild pitches and a couple of costly errors sank the Willmar Stingers in their first loss of the season, 2-1, to the Waterloo Bucks on Friday at Bill Taunton Stadium.
The Stingers fell to 2-1 in the Northwoods League North Division. They hit the road today and will face the Border Cats at 5:05 p.m. at Thunder Bay.
The teams will then meet again on Sunday in Ontario with the game starting at 4:05 p.m.
Tied at 1-1, Bret Dahlson uncorked a pitch that got past catcher Chris Barnett and allowed Pierce Belestegui to score the go-ahead run with two outs in the eighth.
Belestegui had drawn a walk to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a Bobby McCormack wild pitch.
Dahlson came in to relieve McCormack and induced a ground ball for the second out, but Belestegui took third on the play and came home on Dahlson’s wild pitch to Eric Stout.
“I thought Bobby looked pretty good,” Stingers’ manager Matt Hollod said. “It was the walk that killed us. They didn’t even get a hit.”
McCormack, in his first Stingers’ appearance, came on in relief of Tyler Hamer in the sixth with two outs and the bases loaded and caught Connor McClain looking to kill the rally.
Waterloo’s Tyler Foote, in his third inning of relief, set the Stingers down in the ninth, pitching around an error by the third baseman that allowed Colton Bottomley to reach first.
T.J. Renda started and worked six innings for the Bucks. He struck out three and walked one.
“It didn’t look like (Renda) had a whole lot but he was spotting his pitches and throwing strikes with multiple pitches,” Hollod said. “Anytime you spot it, it doesn’t matter how hard you throw or how much movement you have, if you put the ball where you want to put it, it’s going to make it tough on the hitters.”
The Stingers took the lead early on a Marc Flores single to drive in Steven Brault, who had tripled in his first at bat of the season.
Waterloo tied it off Willmar starter Hamer in the third. McClain reached first on a fielding error by shortstop Tyler Leffler. After taking third on a Pat Mackenzie single, McClain scored when Blake Hickman hit a slow roller to first base that spun out of the glove of first baseman Flores.
“That (play) is tougher than you think,” Hollod said. “It looks easy but it’s off the end of the bat and it’s got a lot of spin.”
Hamer pitched 5.2 innings and allowed just the unearned run.
Despite the loss, Hollod said the Stingers’ pitching has looked strong early.
“Lots of strikes,” he said. “It’s ironic that we ended up losing on a walk and a couple wild pitches. For the most part, we’ve been in the zone attacking hitters and making them beat us.”