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NWL Baseball: Stingers blast Honkers, set win mark

Tribune photo by Tom Larson Willmar Stinger Reagan Fowler connects for a solo home run in the first inning of a Northwoods League game against Rochester on Friday at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. Fowler also lashed a two-run single in the second inning as the Stingers rolled 15-8.

WILLMAR — The Willmar Stingers broke out offensively, taking advantage of a depleted Rochester team, for a 15-8 win — the team record-setting 42nd of the season — Friday at Bill Taunton Stadium.

The win pushed them past the mark of 41 that the Stingers reached in each of the past two seasons, and they did it with eight games left to play.

“Once again, fun to come to the yard and be around these guys,” Stingers’ manager Drew Saberhagen said. “The record is a cool thing for the guys.”

Reagan Fowler was 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs, coming up a triple short of the cycle. The home run came on a solo shot in the first off Rochester starter Ryan Bower. It was only a small sign of things to come, as the Stingers pounded out 12 hits and 14 runs in the next two innings alone.

“He got 2-0 and threw an off-speed and I took a really bad swing,” Fowler said. “Then he threw another ball and I was just sitting fastball and I got a good swing on it.”

The Stingers sent 10 men to the plate in the second and 14 in the third.

“The pitchers were leaving some pitches up and the streak of good at-bats continued down the line,” Fowler said.

All nine Willmar starters had at least one hit, and Fowler, Brian Pruett and Max Waletich contributed three each.

Sean Beesley cracked a bases-clearing double in the third, and Fowler and Nick Rivera keyed the second inning rally with back-to-back two-run doubles.

“It just continued over from last night,” Saberhagen said. “They had a lot better approach at the plate. Yinger was working quick early and when you get the hitters back in after scoring some runs, that helps.”

The Honkers were short players thanks to ill-timed injuries and players going home for the season — they were working four available pitchers and had just eight position players available, being forced to use last night’s starting pitcher Matt Kent as the designated hitter.

Willmar tagged starter Bower for seven runs in two innings and eight more off Levi Lochner, the losing pitcher in Thursday night’s walk-off win, in two-thirds of an inning.

With a 15-0 lead by the third inning, it briefly looked like the Stingers could make a run at their team record for runs in a game — a 24-5 victory June 25, 2013, at Alexandria — but the Honkers’ Alex Mogensen came through with 5.1 innings of sorely-needed shutout ball.

Kurt Yinger sailed past his first time through Honkers’ lineup, but ran into trouble with two runs in the fourth and sixth innings before giving way to Brantley Claunch.

Claunch gave up a three-run homer to University of North Dakota slugger Jeff Campbell, but he, Will Lydon and Joe Zorn limited further damage, each pitching an inning to finish out the game.

The Stingers’ record-setting win also pushed them into first place in the Northwoods League North Division second half, a half-game ahead of Waterloo and in line for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Saberhagen said a shot at home-field advantage would be a boost for the team.

“The guys like playing here,” he said. “It’d be nice having the second and third games at home. Takes down on some of the travel, and some of the guys are starting to realize that that’s what they’re playing for.”

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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