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Stingers shock 1st-place Duluth with five-run 9th

(Tribune photo by Tom Larson) Willmar Stingers shortstop Alex Sole tosses the ball to third baseman Max Kuhn, who tags out Duluth runner Garret LaRosa during the Stingers’ 9-6 win Friday at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar. LaRosa was trying to advance on a ground ball to Sole but lead runner Nick Saathoff (35) retreated to third, leaving LaRosa in a pinch.

WILLMAR — Max Kuhn hit a three-run, walk-off home run, and the Willmar Stingers rallied from a six-run deficit to beat the Duluth Huskies 9-6 on Friday at Bill Taunton Stadium.

The Stingers improved to at 6-4 and are in second place in the Northwoods League North Division. They host Duluth again 7:05 p.m. today.

With Willmar trailing 6-4, Alec Sole got the rally going with one out in the ninth when he was hit by a pitch from Duluth reliever Nate Carter.

Steven Brault followed with a double to right and Marc Flores hit a sharp single to drive in Sole, with Brault scoring the tying run on a throwing error by Duluth center fielder Keith Curcio.

Flores advanced to second on the throw and Carter intentionally walked Michael Suchy to bring Kuhn to the plate

“As a baseball player you go through it a lot in big situations,” Kuhn said. “I was actually pretty relaxed about it. I looked for that fastball and I got it.”

Carter grooved the first pitch to Kuhn, who lined it over the fence in the left field corner.

“You never expect any of that,” Stingers’ manager Matt Hollod said. “Just have to have good at bats and hope that happens.”

Michael Suchy homered in the eighth and Tyler Leffler knocked a two-run double in the seventh to cut the Husky lead to 6-4.

Duluth’s Jake Heissler kept the Stingers off balance early on, holding them to 3 hits and 1 unearned run through six innings. 

He was backed by a Husky offense that jumped on Stingers’ pitchers Michael Murray and Andrew Crook for 6 runs in the first four innings.

Murray struggled with his control early, walking three batters, all of who came around to score.

“Murray couldn’t find his fastball,” Hollod said. “He was falling behind the in the count so he started throwing sliders first, but you do that enough and the hitters start to pick up on that. So we had to make a change early and from then on our pitching was good. They did an excellent job.”

Joe Kirkland and Josh Matheson combined to toss three scoreless innings of relief to keep the Stingers in the game, and Matheson earned the win.

Murray surrendered an RBI double to Garrett LaRosa in the second, and Josh Alexander and Trey Vavra had two-run singles in the third and fourth.

It was the second start in a row that Murray struggled. His first start of the season Saturday at Thunder Bay, he gave up 3 runs in 4 1/3 innings.

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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