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Northwoods League: Stingers move into first

Tribune photo by Tom Larson Willmar starter Mark Lukowski delivers a pitch early in the Stingers' game against Duluth on Friday night at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. Lukowski ran into trouble with his control in the fourth inning and didn't factor in the decision, but the Stingers took over sole possession of first place in the Northwoods League's North Division with a 7-6 win over the Huskies.

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Stingers are back in first place after beating the Duluth Huskies 7-6 on Friday at Bill Taunton Stadium.

The Stingers, who went into the game trailing Duluth by half a game, switched places with the Huskies in the standings and now lead by half a game.

Mitch Rowan homered and had three RBIs, and Dillon Haupt hit a go-ahead, two-out double in the sixth inning as Willmar rallied to come back from a four-run deficit.

Stingers' manager Matt Hollod said the team's two-out hitting has been a big reason for the success of the offense.

"(We're getting) huge at bats with two outs and guys in scoring position," Hollod said. "I would bet that we're near the top of the league with two outs getting base hits."

Trailing 6-5 in the sixth inning, Willmar's Brennan Moore got hit by a pitch with one out. Forrestt Allday followed with a single, and after both advanced on a wild pitch, Mitch Rowan grounded out to score Moore and tie the game.

That brought up Haupt with two outs, who drove a double to deep centerfield to score Allday with the eventual winning run.

Hollod said the catchers the Stingers used early in the year did well defensively but struggled with the bat.

"When Dillon came (in early July), he really boosted our spot in the lineup where that catcher hits," Hollod said. "Instead of someone hitting .200, you've got someone hitting .360."

Corben Green gave the Stingers an early 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the first inning, but Duluth took advantage of Willmar starter Mark Lukowski's wildness to score six runs in the fourth inning.

Hollod said when Lukowski starts that he runs out of stamina quickly.

"(Lukowski) hasn't started in a couple years and he didn't have a lot of innings at Creighton," Hollod said. "I don't expect him to go six or seven innings, but he's also getting fatigued a lot faster than I thought he would."

Jon Flinn, who struggled as a member of the starting rotation, earned the win in relief with 3-2/3 scoreless innings.

"Flinn's had three relief appearances since I moved him to the bullpen, and two of them have been really good, and it's because he's throwing multiple pitches for strikes," Hollod said. "He did exactly what we needed."

Austin Perez took the loss for Duluth, though he gave up no runs in the box score but gave up Rowan's RBI-groundout and Haupt's double in the sixth in relief of Huskies' starter Dylan Thomas.

The Stingers made it 6-5 in the bottom of the fourth on an Allday RBI-single and Rowan's two-run homer.

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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