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Stingers' Gonzalez North's 2nd-leading hitter

(Tribune photo by Rand Middleton) Eduardo Gonzalez has a powerful swing that has produced 15 extra-base hits and a .340 batting average this season for the Willmar Stingers.

When Eduardo Gonzalez went 0-for-5 on Thursday, it dropped his batting average.

To .342.

It was only the eighth time the Willmar Stingers first baseman has gone hitless in a breakout 2011 Northwoods League season, during which he was selected a league All Star and has been among the league leaders in batting average.

Gonzalez, a three-year starter at first base for Alcorn State in Mississippi, is in his second year with the Stingers.

Gonzalez entered Friday's game with Mankato leading the North in hitting at .342. An 1-for-4 performance Friday dropped Gonzalez's average to .340 and second in the North.

Last season, he played in 57 games and compiled a modest .269 batting average and .329 on-base percentage. He hit only one home run.

Through Thursday's game, he has increased his batting average by 70 points and his on-base percentage to .398.

Gonzalez said making adjustments with the Stingers coaches is one of the reasons for his improvement.

"Working with coach Brandon (Cohen), working on staying back and keeping my top hand through the ball (has helped)," he said.

Gonzalez has three home runs to go along with his sparkling batting average, but he's not a true power hitter, said Stingers manager Matt Hollod.

"He's more of a line drive, gap-to-gap guy," Hollod said. "He's already developed more power since we've had him. If you watch him in (batting practice), the ball is jumping off his bat a little more."

While many Northwoods League players are found through networking and connections with coaches, Hollod said he found Gonzalez through the Internet.

"I just looked up his numbers and called the coach," Hollod said. "If you don't get enough guys you need to make new connections."

Last season at Alcorn State, Gonzalez helped lead the Braves to their first-ever Southwestern Athletic Conference baseball championship and was named to the SWAC All-Tournament Team.

Gonzalez said he'd had a good year in college (last season), but didn't anticipate the season he's having.

"I try to get a pitch and put a good swing on it," he said. "The rest is going to take care of itself."

Through Thursday, Gonzalez was ranked second in the league in batting average, trailing only Wisconsin's Danny Susdorf, who is batting .350 for the Woodchucks.

Next season, Gonzalez will see if there is a future for him in professional baseball.

"I'm trying to have a strong season and see how the draft works out for me," he said.

Hollod said he expected Gonzalez to be a consistent player but not at the level he's been.

"Last year he was a consistent .260, .270 guy," Hollod said. "This year he's consistent at .340-.350."

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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