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Willmar's Smith to be honored with Stingers bobblehead

WILLMAR -- Willmar native and former Stinger Jordan Smith will be honored this season with the Stingers' first bobblehead giveaway.

Smith had a standout season for the Stingers in 2010 and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the ninth round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft.

He played last season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Niles, Ohio) of the short-season New York-Penn League.

Smith reported to the Indians' spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., on Tuesday.

"This idea made a lot of sense because Jordan was definitely one of the fan favorites and had an unbelievable season with the Stingers during our inaugural campaign," Stingers co-owner Marc Jerzak said.

The first 300 fans attending the July 27 game against the Duluth Huskies will receive a bobblehead at the gate or a token to be used to pick one up during the game. They will be given away on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Stingers notes from around college baseball

Based on early results, the Willmar Stingers could have the beginning of a potent offense for 2012.

The sample sizes are small, as most schools had their openers in mid-February, but so far the numbers are there.

Outfielder Mitch Rowan (Willamette) and shortstop Hunter Dozier (Stephen F. Austin) are the stars in the early goings of 2012.

Rowan is batting .423 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 26 at bats. He is slugging .962, and thanks to his 13 walks he also has a .619 on-base percentage.

Dozier, who is in line to start at shortstop for the Stingers, has been on a tear through his first eight games. He's batting .387 with three home runs and seven RBIs in 31 at bats.

After a slow start, returning outfielder Pat Stover (Santa Clara) has raised his batting average to .412 through eight games. He has one home run and eight RBIs in 34 at bats.

The early returns on pitching haven't been too shabby either.

Starting pitcher Thomas Taylor (Kansas) was named the Big 12 Pitcher of the Week for the week of Feb. 20 after an 8 1/3 inning gem against Belmont where he gave up no runs and struck out five. Taylor went 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA and 47 strikeouts last season for the Stingers.

Another returning Stinger, Scott Lieser (St. Cloud State), is having a dominating start with the Huskies. In four starts, Lieser is 4-0 and has a 0.47 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 19 innings.

More pitchers will be added in the coming weeks as the Stingers fill out their roster, which currently sits at 20 players.

Others of note: Mike Hollenbeck (Illinois State) hit a two-run home run in the Redbirds' 28-2 drubbing of Tennessee Tech on Sunday; Hollenbeck is batting .292 on the season ... Second baseman Kenny Roberts (Alabama) is batting .292 with a .370 on-base percentage and .542 slugging percentage for the Crimson Tide ... Catcher Dillon Haupt (San Diego) is batting .348 with one home run and four RBIs ... Ex-Stinger Sean Dwyer (Florida Gulf Coast) is the Eagles' leading hitters so far; he's batting .409 through seven games

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.

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