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Stingers' playoff scramble dashed in loss to Cats

Tribune Staff Report

THUNDER BAY, Ontario -- The Willmar Stingers playoff hopes were effectively dashed Wednesday with a 4-1 loss to the Thunder Bay Border Cats.

The Stingers fell 5½ games behind the first-place Alexandria Beetles in the second half of the Northwoods League North Division race.

Alexandria swept the Duluth Huskies in a doubleheader Wednesday, and with four games remaining for Willmar and five remaining for the Beetles, the Stingers' chances of climbing back into contention are slim.

The Stingers couldn't get much offense going against Thunder Bay, collecting just three hits and one run off Border Cats' pitching.

Thunder Bay starter Logan Birr threw eight innings and struck out eight, allowing just one unearned run. Lee Valencheck took the ninth, shutting down the middle of the Stingers' lineup for his fourth save.

Willmar's Dan Russell took the ball for the Stingers and had a rocky start, giving up all four runs in the first three innings. He settled down after that, throwing three more innings without giving up a run, but the damage was done and the Stingers couldn't recover.

The Border Cats scored one in the first on a Casey Selsor RBI-single and one in the second on Kyle Mossbarger's first home run of the season.

They broke the game open in the third when Selsor drew a two-out walk. Selsor stole second and scored on an Alex Guthrie single. Guthrie scored one batter later when Ino Patron singled to make the score 4-0.

The Stingers pushed one across in the sixth inning when Jason Leblebijian took first base on a fielder's choice. Leblebijian advanced all the way to third when Thunder Bay catcher Mossbarger airmailed a pickoff throw to first. Eduardo Gonzalez drove him in with a sacrifice fly.