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Northwoods playoffs: Gorden's gem leads Stingers over MoonDogs

MANKATO -- Kody Gorden should forget to bring a glove more often.

With Willmar facing elimination in the Northwoods League North Division playoffs, Stingers' starting pitcher Gorden realized he didn't have a glove to use an hour before the start of the game.

"I'd been sharing (Josh) Biggs' glove all year," Gorden said. "I'm the only lefty on the team right now except Forrestt (Allday) and he's an outfielder."

Gorden said he had to recruit the dad of pitcher Kyle Fischer to go buy him a cheap glove at a sporting goods store and Fischer's dad got it to him 15 minutes before game time.

"That helped me ease the nerves a bit, making sure I had a glove for the game," Gorden said.

The glove worked wonders as Gorden tossed eight shutout innings to save a depleted pitching staff and lift the Stingers past the Mankato MoonDogs 4-0 Tuesday in Mankato for their first-ever postseason victory.

"It pretty much starts and ends with Kody Gorden," Stingers' manager Matt Hollod said. "It's one of the best performances I've ever seen."

Hollod said he had to save Scott Lieser for a potential Thursday start, so Hunter Dozier was the only available reliever, and Dozier's coach at Stephen F. Austin had him on a strict innings limit.

"If Gorden hadn't gone eight, we probably would've had to forfeit," Hollod said.

Gorden, whose previous longest start of the season was 4-2/3 innings, struck out eight and walked one while allowing six hits.

"I was trying to pump the strike zone, mix speeds, get ahead early," Gorden said. "I knew I had to go as long as I could and sure enough I did."

Gorden said he's never pitched that many innings before in his life, the previous high being 7-2/3 in the playoffs for his former school Western Nevada.

Second baseman Kenny Roberts sparked the offense for the Stingers. He knocked a fourth-inning double, advanced to third on a Corben Green groundout and scored on a Dozier groundout to get Willmar on the board with a 1-0 lead.

Roberts doubled again in the seventh to drive in two runs and put the Stingers up 4-0.

Willmar also scored in the fifth when Phil Pupillo came in from second base on a throwing error by MoonDogs' second baseman Chase Simpson.

Dozier, who has pitched all of three innings this season, shut the door for the victory with a scoreless ninth inning.

Michael Hahn will get the Game 3 start 7:05 p.m. today in Mankato. The winner will advance to play the winner of the La Crosse-Wisconsin series.

As for Gorden's glove, he may have found a new good-luck charm with it.

"That glove will never leave my sight," he said.

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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