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Stingers take over 1st place

Willmar starter Sheldon Lee delivers to the Alexandria Blue Anchors during the first inning Wednesday at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. Lee worked into the sixth, scattering eight hits and two runs to earn the win. Tribune photo by Ben Brewster

WILLMAR — It wasn’t 24 runs, but it was pretty good.

A day after hammering Alexandria 24-5, the Willmar Stingers took another from the Blue Anchors 5-2 on Wednesday at Bill Taunton Stadium.

Zack Tillery and Nick Halamandaris had RBI doubles and Sheldon Lee pitched 5.1 strong innings to help the Stingers improve to a 19-9 record in the Northwoods League North Division.

With the Waterloo Bucks losing to Duluth on Wednesday, the Stingers moved into first place, taking a half-game lead in the division.

The Stingers peppered Alexandria starter Corey Fitzgerald with 10 hits, and Michael Suchy and Halamandaris got things going with back-to-back doubles in the second inning to put the Stingers up 1-0.

“Halamandaris has been playing well the last couple nights,” Stingers’ manager Matt Hollod said. “He had some really good at bats tonight.”

The Willmar first baseman was 3-for-3 with two doubles and raised his average to .261 after a slow start to the season.

Willmar made it 3-0 in the third when Tillery drove a double to the gap, scoring Max Kuhn and Suchy, who had singled and walked.

Lee scattered eight hits and struck out two in his second start of the season, lowering his ERA to 1.35.

“Sheldon was in trouble like every inning, but he got out of it and made pitches,” Hollod said. “The one inning where they scored, it started with a bad hop and a chopper through the hole.”

That inning was the fifth, when Ryan Blanchard reached on error and Tim Cusick singled to lead off the inning. A bunt advanced them to second and third, and Aaron Gretz slapped a single to right field to plate both runners.

T.J. Whidby relieved Lee and, on the first batter he faced, induced Dalton Leuschke to ground into an inning-ending double play.

“(Whidby) made a good pitch,” Hollod said. “It was a cutter away that got off the end of the bat.”

The Stingers added two more in the sixth. Halamandaris led off with his second double of the game and Max Dutto followed with an RBI single. Dutto was erased on a double play, but Logan Moon followed with a double, stole third and scored when the throw from catcher Gretz went into center field. 

Colin Poche pitched 0.2 scoreless innings and Bret Dahlson, touching 92 mph on the radar gun, pitched around a walk and a single to pick up his fifth save. 

The Stingers play 6:35 p.m. today at Duluth.

Notes: The Stingers will get their last new addition today with the arrival of N.C. State pitcher Andrew Woeck. The Wolfpack made it to the College World Series in Omaha but were eliminated by UNC on June 20.

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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