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NWL Baseball: Stingers could lock up home-field Sunday

WILLMAR -- Andrew Towns and Will Lydon worked nine solid innings to lead the Willmar Stingers to a 4-2 win over Waterloo on Saturday, and the team could lock up home-field advantage in the Northwoods League division playoffs if they can take out the Bucks again Sunday in the regular-season finale.

Towns went six innings, allowing one earned run, no walks while striking out five. Lydon finished for the save, working three hitless innings and striking out four.

Nick Rivera and Brian Pruett both drove in two runs as the Stingers defeated the Bucks for the seventh time in seven games this season.

The Stingers are in the playoffs by virtue of winning the North Division in the season's first half. But there are several scenarios to consider when figuring out who they will play and where as the playoffs begin Monday.

The Stingers would wrap up home-field if they can defeat the Bucks Sunday, and that also would cost the Bucks the second-half title, regardless what Mankato does Sunday.

If the Bucks defeat the Stingers Sunday, they would finish with a better overall record -- both teams are 45-26 heading into Sunday -- but Waterloo will not make the playoffs if Mankato wins at Eau Claire today.

Mankato leads the second half with a 21-14 record after an 8-5 win over Eau Claire on Saturday. Waterloo is 21-15 and a half-game back, and Willmar (23-18) and Duluth (20-15) are one game back.

But even with a Mankato loss and a Willmar win on Sunday, the Stingers can't win the division's second half since the pennant is decided by winner percentage. Mankato's worst winning percentage would be .583 while the Stingers' best would be .571.

Willmar should want Mankato to win the second half since that would guarantee the Stingers home field. Mankato currently sits three games behind the Stingers in overall record. Then again, the Stingers obviously have Waterloo's number this season.

Like Willmar, Duluth can't win the division, even though the Huskies could tie for the second half pennant based on wins and losses. But the Huskies can only tie Mankato in winning percentage and Duluth, which was a league-worst 9-27 in the first half, would lose a tiebreaker to the MoonDogs.