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Stingers Anderson, Rivera, Towns named NWL All-Stars

Willmar first baseman Nick Rivera was named to the Northwoods League All-Star team on Friday. Tribune file photo.

WILLMAR — The Willmar Stingers won the first half of the Northwoods League North Division season, and three of their key players are now headed to the All-Star Game on July 22.

Pitchers Andrew Towns and Brady Anderson, and first baseman Nick Rivera were selected to the team, the league announced Friday.

The game will be played at the Lakeshore Chinooks’ home park in Mequon, Wisconsin.

By virtue of being the first-half champions, Stingers’ manager Drew Saberhagen will manage the North’s team, along with assistants P.J. McIntee and Matt Passauer, and any other North Division head coaches that wish to attend.

“It’ll be a cool experience. Something I haven’t done before,” Saberhagen said. “Also, a little pressure not to win but also to get guys in and not show too much bias.”

Towns and Anderson, who both had dominant first-half runs, are high up on the NWL leaderboards in most major pitching categories.

Anderson is second in the league with a 1.94 ERA. He’s 3-2 and also has four saves after being moved to the closer role to conserve his innings. He also was an All-Star for the Stingers in 2012.

“It’s a great honor to be accepted again,” Anderson said. “I struggled a little (Thursday) night, but that happens every once in a while. It’s been a good season and a good team.”

Anderson said it’s tough to go between starting and relieving so quickly.

“You get out of your routine, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he said. “I had a really high innings limit so I didn’t think I was in jeopardy of reaching it, but it got to the point where it had to be done.”

Towns, who is in his first action as a full-time starter since high school, said he was a little surprised to make it.

“(The season) has been pretty good, I’ve had some good quality starts,” he said. “I just came up here to help out any way I could and do the best I can when I have the ball.”

Towns’ 2.89 ERA is ninth in the North Division. He’s 3-1 with 37 strikeouts and one complete-game shutout in 43.2 innings.

But even on a team dominated by pitching early, Rivera’s offense couldn’t be overlooked.

He’s tied for fourth in the league with seven home runs and is tied for fifth with 25 walks. He’s hitting .292 overall with a .409 on-base percentage and .504 slugging percentage.

“I had mixed feelings (getting chosen) just because there are so many good first basemen in this league,” Rivera said. “I just go out there and play as hard as I can. The good thing about it all is we’re in first place. That was all I wanted to do was make sure we clinched a playoff spot.”

Rivera had an outstanding season at Florida Gulf Coast in the spring, hitting .330 with six home runs. He said he’s just trying to keep doing what he’s been doing.

“I’m getting more reps and getting better mentally and physically,” he said. “Just trying to work on things individually and learn from other guys.”

In a strange twist, the Stingers and Chinooks — the two first-half champions — have the fewest All-Stars, with the Chinooks getting four.

Saberhagen mentioned outfielder Sean Beesley, first baseman Reagan Fowler and pitcher Austin Klein (who’s no longer with the team) as players who could’ve been selected.

“(Anderson, Towns and Rivera) are no doubters,” he said. “A couple others that didn’t get robbed, but that I thought should’ve been there.”

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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