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NWL Baseball: Stingers fall victim to Rox bloopers

Tribune photo by Tom Larson With his new Willmar Stingers teammates watching from the dugout, right fielder Dan Motl lays down a bunt and races to first for the Stingers’ first home base hit of the 2014 season on Thursday against the St. Cloud Rox. The Stingers opened the season with two victories in Duluth before returning home for their opener on a sunny and warm evening at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.

WILLMAR — Sometimes baseballs just find holes.

St. Cloud cranked out 12 hits, just two for extra bases, and turned them into five runs, giving the Rox a 5-4 win over the Willmar Stingers on Thursday at Bill Taunton Stadium.

“It was one of those nights where their ground balls fell in the right spots,” Stingers’ manager Drew Saberhagen said. “They had a couple bloopers that were in there. That’s going to happen.”

The big blow came in the sixth when Garrett McMullen doubled to the left-center gap to lead off the inning against Dakota Belter.

A passed ball and hit batter later, Danny Baer singled to score McMullen and put the Rox up 3-2.

Belter induced a groundout for the second out, but then Liam Bedford laced a clean single to left to plate two more runs.

“It was Dakota’s first time pitching in the Northwoods League,” Saberhagen said. “He was just falling behind.”

Willmar tied it at two in the fifth on a Sam Hall double to score Dan Motl, who had singled with one out, for the Stingers’ first run, and put Nick Rivera, who had walked, on third base.

After a Troy Kuhn strikeout for the second out, Max Dutto hit a single up the middle to score Rivera with the tying run, but Hall was thrown out at home to end the inning on a perfect throw by Baer in centerfield.

They scored again in the sixth on a wild pitch and a sac fly off the bat of Motl to make it 5-4.

The Stingers left 10 runners on base, and had several other chances to take the lead, including Dutto’s line-drive double play to end the first inning with the bases loaded.

“The only thing that was frustrating was bases loaded and one out and not being able to score,” Saberhagen said. “We’ll continue to be aggressive. We’re fine. I really like our team.”

Belter took the loss, giving up three runs in two-thirds of an inning, and St. Cloud starter Matt Rodgers worked five innings for the win.

It was the Stingers’ first loss of the season, putting them at 2-1 in the Northwoods League North Division.

They play at 7:05 p.m. today at St. Cloud to start a four-game road trip.

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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