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Stingers denied playoff access

THUNDER BAY, Ont. -- Needing to win two out of three games in the final regular-season series of the season against Thunder Bay to make the playoffs, the Willmar Stingers instead dropped the first two games and were eliminated from post-season play.

After losing to the Border Cats 2-1 on Saturday, the Stingers dropped a 7-3 decision to Thunder Bay on Sunday. St. Cloud clinched the second-half title of the Northwoods League North Division with a pair of weekend wins over Rochester. The River Bats will play a best-of-three series against Rochester beginning on Wednesday.

The Stingers, playing in their inaugural season, will take on Thunder Bay again today in the final game of the season.

Willmar fell behind the Border Cats 4-0 after three innings on Sunday and closed to within 4-2 with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning when Anthony Bemboom singled and Mikey Reynolds walked to start the rally. Carlos Leyva's single then drove in Bemboom with the first run and Reynolds scored the second on a throwing error.

Thunder Bay came right back to score twice in its home half of the fifth to make it 6-2.

But Jordan Smith then uncorked his team-leading fifth home run of the season leading off the sixth inning, whittling the Stingers' deficit to 6-3.

Thunder Bay capped the scoring with a single run in the last of the eighth.

Toby Nivins finished 5-for-5 for the Border Cats and scored twice. Ken Battison had a pair of hits and knocked in three runs.

Smith, one of the favorites to win the Most Valuable Player award, finished 3-for-4 and is now batting .378 for the season. Eau Claire's Drew Heithoff leads the league with a .387 average with one game remaining. Leyva, Bemboom and Jared Norris had two hits apiece.

David Carroll (4-3) was tagged with the loss on the mound for the Stingers. The right-hander gave up eight hits and four runs over four innings. He walked one and struck out two. Jayson Huett relieved and gave up eight hits and three runs over 3Zc innings before Jacob Barnes finished and gave up two hits and struck out two.

Michael Woytek (5-5) pitched six innings for the win.