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Northwoods Baseball: Stingers edge the top Dogs

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Mitch Rowen of the Willmar Stingers looks for the go-ahead from the team's third-base coach (not pictured) and goes on to score the game's first run on a double to right by Steve Brault in the third inning on Saturday against the Rochester Honkers at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. Rowen homered in a ninth-inning Stingers' comeback to force extra innings, but Rochester would collect a 9-8 win in the 10th. The Honkers' third baseman at right is Brandon DeFazio.

MANKATO -- Kenny Roberts drove in six runs with a pair of three-run home runs and the Willmar Stingers would need them all, holding on for a 6-5 Northwoods League victory over Mankato on Sunday.

Roberts hit his bombs in the first and third innings, giving Willmar a 6-0 lead. Mankato chipped away at the Stingers' lead and had the tying run on base in the ninth before reliever Brady Anderson got the MoonDogs' Drew Stankiewicz to fly out at the warning track to end the game.

Willmar (16-10) gained a game in the standings on North Division-leading Mankato (19-7), now up three games with nine games remaining in the first half of the season.

Roberts hit both his home runs with two outs, and this season 11 of Roberts' 17 runs batted in have come with two outs. He's tied for the Northwoods lead with five homers.

With two on and two out in the first inning, Roberts lined a shot down the left field line to score Forrestt Allday and Hunter Dozier, giving the Stingers a 3-0 lead.

Roberts stepped to the plate in the exact same situation -- Allday and Dozier in scoring position with two outs - in the third inning. Roberts drilled a 385-foot home run to center field to double the Stingers lead.

Mankato chipped away at its deficit with an unearned run in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth. With Willmar leading 6-3 in the ninth, the MoonDogs began to rally with one out. Chad Christensen singled, and Nick Ratajczak walked. Chase Fowler doubled to left field to score Christensen and Ratajczak, making it a one-run game with the tying run in scoring position. A two-out walk to Chase Simpson put the winning run on base, but Stankiewicz flied out to the warning track in right field to secure the Stingers victory.

Richie Navari earned his first victory of the season, surrendering three runs on four hits and six walks in 5.1 innings. Josh Biggs pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to set the game up for Brady Anderson, who gave up two runs while getting the final four outs in a non-save situation.

Willmar will conclude its two-game road trip to Mankato with 7:05 p.m. game today, and the Stingers return home to play the MoonDogs on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.