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NWL: Stingers bring in four pitchers

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Stingers solidified their pitching with the addition of four hurlers on Thursday, including a Minnesota Gopher freshman.

The Stingers' pitching staff now sits at 11, and the total roster size at 24 players.

One of the newcomers is Minnesota's Lance Thonvold, a Scottsdale, Ariz., native and graduate of Eden Prairie (Minn.) High School.

He is a unique pitcher in that he was the first pitcher to be recruited by the Gophers specifically as a reliever.

Thonvold said relieving was something he fell into because his high school team had other pitchers who were already doing well as starters.

"I was always someone who threw hard but they didn't have a spot for me early on," he said.

He will likely stay a reliever for the Stingers this summer.

"(Thonvold) will be in that role for us," Stingers manager Matt Hollod said. "He (throws) 85-90 ... he's got some good stuff. We're excited to see him."

Thonvold made his college debut on Feb. 19 at South Florida, striking out the only batter he faced.

"As of right now we're trying to fall into our roles," Thonvold said. "Outing by outing we'll see as we go along. Towards the middle of the year you'll know how much you'll start throwing."

Thonvold also played for the Eden Prairie American Legion team that won the 2011 Legion World Series over Tupelo, Miss., last August. He hit three home runs in the Series and threw six scoreless innings in relief to pick up the win in the 13-inning title game.

The Stingers have a possible candidate for the starting rotation in junior college transfer George Asmus, who transferred all the way up to Division I Washington after playing two seasons at Ohlone College (Fremont, Calif.) of the California Community College Athletic Associaton.

Asmus was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 24th round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft, after going 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 69 innings for Ohlone, but elected to continue his college career with the Huskies.

In his first taste of Division I, Asmus has become the Huskies' No. 2 starter and has thrown nine innings in two starts for a 3.00 ERA and nine strikeouts.

"He's a good one," Hollod said. "He had 89 strikeouts and only 20 walks (for Ohlone). That impressed me."

Josh Biggs (Evansville) is another junior who could bring valuable experience to the Stingers. He's only thrown two innings out of the bullpen so far this season, but was a quality swingman for the Purple Aces in 2011.

Splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation, he went 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched.

"He's one of their best guys," Hollod said. "He throws 82 to 88 with a really good curveball."

Rounding out the new additions is Creighton freshman Mark Lukowski.

Lukowski, a native of Papillion, Neb., has yet to play for the Blue Jays this season.

The righthander led Papillion South High School to the Nebraska state championship last season and was the MVP of the tournament. During the regular season, he put up a 1.56 ERA in 49 innings.

Hollod said Lukowski can hit 90 mph and has a three-quarters arm slot in his delivery.

"He's got a little funk with his arm, so he shows something different out there," he said.

With all of the incoming pitchers, Hollod said their role with the Stingers depends on their college workload.

"If he starts for them all year and gets 80 to 90 innings, they may only want him to get 30 to 40 with us," Hollod said. "If that's the case he may go to relief. It's not really decided until the end of the year."

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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