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Northwoods League: Willmar ties NWL record in 9-3 victory Saturday

WILLMAR -- Home runs by Kenny Roberts and Zach Benson gave Willmar 59 for the season, tying the Northwoods League record for most roundtrippers in a single season by a team, set in 1997 by St. Cloud.

Roberts' grand slam in the first inning Saturday marked the first of the two home runs, and it also gave the Stingers a lead they would never relinquish for the remainder of the game.

Duluth struck first with two runs on one hit in their first time to the plate to take a 2-0 lead, but Willmar bounced back when Brennan Moore singled with one out and Mitch Rowan and Corben Green each walked to load the bases with two outs for Roberts. Roberts turned on a 3-2 pitch, driving the ball over the left-field fence for his league-leading 15th home run of the year and his second grand slam of the season. As a team, the Stingers now have four grand slams in 2012.

With a 4-2 lead after the first inning, the Stingers continued to pour it on with a run in the second and four in the third to take a commanding 9-2 lead through three innings. Forrestt Allday scored for the 60th time of the season on a throwing error after he reached initially on a two-out bunt single in the second inning.

Michael Hahn received his second victory of the season after pitching three innings of scoreless relief when Kody Gorden had to leave after the first inning of his first start of the year because he exceeded the league limit for pitches in one inning with 37. Hahn struck out two, while Andre Wheeler struck out five in the next two innings. Wheeler also shut out the Huskies offense in his outing. Mark Lukowski and Hunter Dozier each tossed an inning of scoreless baseball on the mound, while Josh Biggs allowed one unearned run in the eighth.

Leading 5-2, the third inning began with back-to-back singles by Rowan and Michael Suchy. Rowan scored on a wild pitch, and Roberts drove home Suchy on a single for his fifth RBI of the game and his 49th of the year. Two batters later, Benson hit his third home run of the season to score Roberts and tie the Stingers for the league record. Willmar held a 9-2 lead at that point and coasted to its sixth victory in the past seven games.

The Stingers now have a two-game lead in the second half of the Northwoods League North Division over Alexandria with one week remaining in the regular season.

Willmar was off Sunday and travels to Alexandria today for a 7:05 p.m. game against the Beetles.