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Mankato fights off Stingers

Willmar catcher Brett Barbier waits to tag out Mankato’s Patrick Massoni during the second inning Wednesday at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. Massoni attempted to score on a single by Eric Schenck-Joblinske. Tribune photo by Ben Brewster 1 / 2
Willmar mascot Barry jumps over two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen, the father of Stingers' manager Drew Saberhagen on Wednesday. Tribune photo by Ben Brewster. 2 / 2

WILLMAR — Control, or lack of it, was the Willmar Stingers’ undoing in their second-half opener on Wednesday night at Bill Taunton Stadium.

Willmar starter Matt Snyder walked four, and all four came around to score, which proved to be the difference in the Mankato MoonDogs 7-5 victory over the Stingers.

It didn’t get any better for reliever Ben Gullo, who walked four more — one of whom scored — in his inning of work.

“Lack of command of the strike zone plagued us,” Stingers’ manager Drew Saberhagen said. “They got a couple big hits when they needed to.”

The biggest was a two-out, three-run double off the bat of Mankato first baseman Levi Scott in the third inning after Snyder had walked the bases loaded.

Scott doubled again in the seventh off Gullo, scoring Brett Synek to put the MoonDogs up 7-5.

“When (Gullo and Snyder) are in the strike zone they don’t get hit hard,” Saberhagen said. “But you give them free bases and you give them an opportunity to hurt you.”

The Stingers also had some missed opportunities with the bat, stranding seven runners.

In the Willmar sixth, down 6-4, two questionable calls stifled what could’ve been a game-tying rally.

They still managed a run in the inning, on Jack Ross’ sacrifice fly, but the Stingers had Reagan Fowler thrown out on a steal attempt and Dan Motl thrown out at first on a sacrifice bunt, both on very close calls.

Had Motl been called safe, the Stingers would’ve had the bases loaded with no outs.

Later in the inning, Fowler drew a two-out walk and was gunned down by Mankato catcher Dalton DeLeon at second trying to advance on a wild pitch, ending the inning.

“It’s frustrating but it’s going to happen over the course of the summer,” Saberhagen said. “I thought Reagan was out at second but I thought Motl was safe at first. That changes the inning.”

The Stingers did plate three in the fifth on a wild pitch and RBI hits from Nick Rivera and Hutton Moyer.

Willmar also scored in the first on Casey Hughston’s RBI single.

The Stingers scattered eight hits in the first six innings, three from Brett Barbier and two from Rivera off the MoonDogs’ Blake Battenfield and Garrett Ring.

Winning pitcher Alex Hackerott and closer Tyler Mark were unhittable in the final three innings, setting the Stingers down in order in the seventh, eighth and ninth.

Brantley Claunch pitched the final two frames for Willmar, striking out the side in the eighth.

Snyder took the loss for the Stingers, who are 0-1 in the second half in the Northwoods League North Division.

They now hit the road five straight away games, starting tonight with a rematch at Mankato.

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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