THUNDER BAY, Ontario - There are some players that a team simply can't replace and for the Willmar Stingers, two of those players bade adieu this week and their absence was felt Thursday in Thunder Bay.
The Stingers fell to the Thunder Bay Bordercats 8-2 in the first of a four game series and the team's first without centerfielder Marcus Still and first baseman Danny Rodriguez.
Willmar started strong with two runs in the opening frame but Thunder Bay responded with two of their own and never looked back. The Stingers logged three of their four hits on the day in the first inning, including a pair of RBI singles by Josh Bissonette and Caleb Ledbetter.
Thunder Bay first baseman Noah Strohl had something to say about Willmar's 2-0 lead, though, and deposited a two-run home run over the fence to tie things up in his first at-bat. Strohl was one of seven Bordercats to log a multi-hit game in the series opener.
Travis Bruinsma allowed the opening runs for Thunder Bay but followed that up with six hitless and scoreless innings. DJ De Piero pitched two innings of one hit ball with four strikeouts to close things out and give Thunder Bay the victory.
Corey Binger was on the bump for the Stingers and he finished with five runs allowed in as many innings, raising his ERA from 1.67 to 2.81.
Thunder Bay finished with 15 hits, four of which were extra base hits, compared to Willmar's four.
The Stingers sit two games back of Eau Claire and Mankato for the North Division's second half title with three games to play.
Thunder Bay 8, Willmar 2
Willmar 200 000 000-2 4 0
Thunder Bay 202 102 01x-8 15 0
Hitting - Willmar: Nolan Bumstead 1-3 r, Josh BIssonette 1-4 rbi, Caleb Ledbetter 1-4 rbi, Mitchell Heid 1-4 ... Thunder Bay: Andy Weber 2-5 2b rbi r, Gabriel Lozada 2-4 rbi, Brendan Dougherty 2-4 rbi r-2, Noah Strohl 2-5 hr rbi-3 r
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Corey Binger (L) 5-8-5-5-3-2, Connor Jahn 2-5-2-2-0-1, Ledbetter 1-2-1-1-0-0 ... Thunder Bay: Travis Bruinsma (W) 7-3-2-2-3-5, DJ DePiero 2-1-0-0-1-4