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Stingers get shot in Showcase

Willmar Stinger catcher Eli Wilson throws to first base in a July 27 game at Bill Taunton Stadium. Wilson was selected for the Northwoods League Major League Dreams Showcase Monday. Jake Schultz / Tribune1 / 5
Willmar Stinger Louie Varland throws a first inning pitch in a May 30 game at Bill Taunton Stadium. Varland was selected for the Northwoods League Major League Dreams Showcase Monday. Jake Schultz / Tribune2 / 5
Willmar Stinger pitcher Louie Varland, right, is greeted by manager Bo Henning, 28, and fellow pitcher Bryant Claunch, 23, after an inning May 30 at Bill Taunton Stadium. Varland was selected for the Northwoods League Major League Dreams Showcase Monday. Jake Schultz / Tribune3 / 5
Willmar Stinger catcher Eli Wilson makes contact in a July 10 game against Rochester at Bill Taunton Stadium. Jake Schultz / Tribune4 / 5
Willmar Stinger Eli Wilson makes contact in a July 27 game against Bismarck at Bill Taunton Stadium. Jake Schultz / Tribune5 / 5

The Northwoods League's annual Major League Dreams Showcase can be the moment where a college baseball player gets noticed by a big league scout and makes a lasting impression. It can be a key moment in whether a person gets drafted or not, or determines how much money is in a signing bonus.

Two Willmar Stingers will get that chance this season.

Catcher Eli Wilson and pitcher Louie Varland were selected to participate in this year's Major League Dreams Showcase, set to be held Tuesday, August 7 at Warner Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

The showcase consists of two games, scheduled for start times of 4:05 p.m. and 7:35 p.m. Both Stingers will play for the visiting team in the early game which consists of members from the Bismarck Larks, Duluth Huskies, Thunder Bay Border Cats, St. Cloud Rox and one member from the Madison Mallards. The home team consists of players from the Rochester Honkers, La Crosse Loggers, Mankato MoonDogs, Eau Claire Express, Waterloo Bucks, Rox and Larks.

Game two will consist of players from all of the Southern Division teams.

Last year's showcase featured five Stingers, including current Willmar hurler Nick Mears. Varland's brother, Gus, started one of the games last season and was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 14th round this June.

Louie Varland, a Maplewood native who completed his sophomore season at Concordia-St. Paul this spring, has logged a team-high 46-2/3 innings pitched for a 2-2 record. He has shown flashes of excellence, striking out a team-best 46 batters, but has been hit hard a times to a tune of a 5.01 earned-run average. He has a high potential, though. He posted a meager 1.41 ERA with the Golden Bears this spring, good for the fourth-best mark in Division II and has a 1.95 career ERA, which is the best career ERA in program history.

He'll be joined at the showcase by batterymate, Wilson, who is having a strong year in his second season with the Stingers. The University of Minnesota standout is batting .323 in 26 games played. He's racked up 32 hits and 23 runs while smacking seven doubles and a home run. He has a .410 on-base percentage in 117 plate appearances.

Wilson joined the Stingers later than most of his summer teammates due to a breakout sophomore season with the Gophers where he helped Minnesota reach the NCAA Super Regional. Wilson hit .289 while playing in 53 games for the Gophers, hitting nine doubles and five home runs with 37 RBIs and 31 runs scored. He also boasted a .992 fielding percentage as the team's primary catcher, allowing just three errors with 38 assists.

A day of workouts in front of Major League Baseball scouts will precede the doubleheader. Former Minnesota Twin and current St. Cloud Rox coach Al Newman will manage the visiting team consisting of the Stingers.

Jake Schultz

Jake Schultz is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune, working his first job out of college. He graduated from St. John's University (CSB/SJU) in 2016 and is a baseball fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @StJake29. 

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