WILLMAR - The Willmar Stingers announced their first six signings for the 2018 Northwoods League season on Wednesday.
All six players are returners to the Stingers from the 2017 team that won 41 games and reached the playoffs.
The group is headlined by Concordia-St. Paul right-hander Gus Varland, who posted a 1.42 earned-run average in 50-2/3 innings with Willmar last season. Varland was named to both the Northwoods League midseason and postseason All-Star teams after finishing only behind teammate Polo Portela in earned run average.
The other returning Stingers are outfielder Tyler Reichenborn, catcher Eli Wilson, and pitchers Corey Binger, Myles Smith and Braxton Johns.
"We are excited to each of these guys back as part of our team next season," Stingers co-owner Marc Jerzak said. "Having a solid group of returning players will provide great leadership for the rest of our roster."
Reichenborn, from Iowa Western Community College, was a regular in Willmar's outfield, posting a 92 wRC+ while ranking fourth on the team with 30 RBI and 35 runs.
Wilson is a promising catcher out of the University of Minnesota, hitting .319 in 24 games as a freshman with the Golden Gophers in 2017. Wilson appeared in 26 games with the Stingers before injuring his hand and missing the rest of the season.
Binger will be back in Willmar for his fourth season with the Stingers after transferring to Minnesota State-Mankato earlier this year. The right-hander posted a 2.81 ERA in 32 innings in 2017 with the Stingers and was the starting pitcher for their playoff game against St. Cloud.
Smith and Johns both proved to be rubber arms in the Willmar bullpen, combining for 39 appearances on the mound last year. Smith's versatility was also on display, picking up 13 at-bats and playing left field in the playoffs.