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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In a season dominated by gaudy rushing numbers and dual-threat quarterbacks on teams earning state tournament berths, the best player in the area may have been a linebacker on a team that was eliminated in the section playoffs. Minnewaska linebacker and offensive guard Nathan Snider, a second-team selection last year, is a first-teamer this time around, having set multiple state and school records in 2012. Benson quarterback Matthew Ahrndt and Dawson-Boyd running back Justin Lee are repeat first-teamers, and there are six repeat selections in all.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Stingers have started building their 2013 squad, announcing five players from the 2012 team will return next season. The 2012 Stingers won the Northwoods League North Division in the second half to advance to the playoffs for the first time in team history. They were eliminated in the first round by the Mankato MoonDogs.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Stingers announced Monday that Matt Hollod will return as manager for the 2013 season, his fourth with the Stingers. Hollod, who led the Stingers to the Northwoods League North Division playoffs this season after winning the North in the second half, has compiled a career record of 119-90. The Stingers were eliminated by the Mankato MoonDogs in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. Hollod said he keeps coming back to Willmar because of the non-stop baseball. "I'm just a baseball rat and I love the idea that we play every single day," Hollod said.
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.
WILLMAR -- The lack of pitching depth came back to haunt the Willmar Stingers as they fell to the Mankato MoonDogs 10-5 on Monday at Bill Taunton Stadium in their first-ever Northwoods League playoff game. Stingers' starting pitcher Tanner Banks cruised through the first three innings but then threw more than 35 pitches in a three-run fourth inning. According to Northwoods League rules, if a pitcher surpasses 35 in an inning he can't stay in the game. "The worst thing that could possibly happen, happened," Stingers' manager Matt Hollod said.
WILLMAR -- It took three years and two second-place finishes, but the Willmar Stingers have made the playoffs. Willmar, which entered Saturday's game with a half-game lead in the Northwoods League North Division, beat the Thunder Bay Border Cats 9-2. The win over Thunder Bay, paired with a dramatic finish Saturday in which the Rochester Honkers rallied past St. Cloud with an eighth-inning grand slam, wrapped up the second-half North Division title for the Stingers. Stingers' manager Matt Hollod said he'd been paying attention to the St.
WILLMAR -- Working with a patched-together lineup, the Willmar Stingers fell to the Mankato MoonDogs 6-0 Friday at Bill Taunton Stadium and extended the race for a postseason spot into the final weekend of the Northwoods League second half. The Stingers hung onto their half-game division lead in the North Division, as the second-place St. Cloud Rox lost to the Waterloo Bucks. With two games remaining in the regular season, the winner could come down to the final game. The Alexandria Beetles beat the Rochester Honkers to move into a tie with St. Cloud for second place.
WILLMAR -- Clinging to a half-game division lead entering the day, the Willmar Stingers inched closer to a playoff spot with a 8-3 win over the Mankato MoonDogs on Thursday at Bill Taunton Stadium. The Stingers gained ground on Alexandria in the Northwoods League North Division and lead the Beetles by two games with three regular-season games remaining. Willmar's closest competitor, the St. Cloud Rox, beat Waterloo 11-10 in 11 innings, and trail the Stingers by a half-game in the standings. "I don't think St. Cloud's going to lose again," Stingers' manager Matt Hollod said.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Stingers took a 5-0 lead in the first inning, but the Duluth Huskies kept chipping away and rallying for a 10-7 win Thursday at Bill Taunton Stadium. The Stingers fell to 16-10 in the Northwoods League North Division and had their lead in the division cut to 1.5 games ahead of second-place Duluth. Willmar's magic number - the combination of Stinger wins and Huskie losses needed to clinch a playoff spot - remained at eight, with nine games remaining in the regular season. Down 7-0, the Huskies began their comeback with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
WILLMAR -- Forrestt Allday broke a 0-0 tie with a two-run, two-out double, and the Willmar Stingers beat the Rochester Honkers 4-2 on Monday at Bill Taunton Stadium. The Stingers increased their lead in the Northwoods League North Division to 1.5 games over Duluth, and their record now stands at 14-9. They face Rochester again at 7:05 p.m. today in Willmar. Pitching dominated the game early with Willmar's Kyle Fischer and Rochester's Jared Miller matching zeroes through four innings. In the bottom of the fifth, Zach Benson and J.D. Dorgan reached on two-out singles.