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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WILLMAR -- At a Northwoods League game, you never know which players could turn into a future star. On Stingers opening night, a former one will be in attendance. Bret Saberhagen, former Kansas City Royals ace and two-time Cy Young winner, will be a special guest for the Stingers' opener against the Mankato Moon Dogs on May 30. Saberhagen's son, Drew, is the manager for the Alexandria Beetles. Drew also pitched for the Beetles for four seasons and was an assistant coach last year before getting the manager position for the upcoming season.
Less than a year after being drafted, Willmar native Jordan Smith has already started to make his mark in professional baseball. Smith, a 2009 graduate of Willmar High School, made his pro debut last season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, a minor league team for the Cleveland Indians. He made quick work of the league, being named to the All-Star Team and finishing among the league leaders in several offensive categories. Coming up next for Smith will be his first spring training. He reports to the Indians' spring complex in Goodyear, Ariz., on Feb. 28.
WILLMAR -- A minority owner of the Willmar Stingers bought the St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwoods League as part of an ownership group, the league said. A press conference Wednesday in St. Cloud announced the sale, which was completed Jan. 25. Gary Posch, who owns a minority percentage of the Stingers, was one of the initial investors with Ryan Voz and Marc Jerzak, who purchased the Stingers in 2010. "I knew them when they worked at the St. Cloud franchise and had worked with them on corporate sponsorships and that sort of thing," Posch said.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Stingers continued to solidify their 2012 roster with four more additions Monday. Joining the Stingers are junior infielder Corben Green (Louisiana-Monroe), junior outfielders Forrestt Allday (Central Arkansas) and Stephen Talbott (Purdue) and sophomore catcher Mike Hollenbeck (Illinois State). The group includes two junior college transfers in Green and Allday. Allday played two seasons for Alvin (Texas) Community College and will debut with Central Arkansas this spring.
WILLMAR -- After a difficult 99-loss season, the focus was on the future when the Minnesota Twins Caravan rolled through Willmar on Thursday evening. So it was fitting that the three visiting players are young up-and-comers who could be important parts of a turnaround in 2012. "Worst-to-first happened (in 1990 and 1991)," Twins outfielder Trevor Plouffe said. "We're looking at that as inspiration." Plouffe was joined on the Caravan with pitcher Anthony Swarzak, former first-round draft pick Chris Parmelee and radio broadcaster Dan Gladden.
When the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys basketball team lost to Springfield in the final game of the Class A state tournament, it was the Jaguars' first loss of the 2010-11 season. They are looking to do one better this time around. The Jaguars are currently undefeated -- 2-0 and first place in the Central Minnesota Conference and 9-0 overall -- and ranked No. 1 in Class A. And they haven't just been winning -- they have been pummeling opponents. They've scored over 70 points six times and over 80 twice, including a 74-28 win over Paynesville on Dec.
WILLMAR -- The 2012 Willmar Stingers roster is beginning to take shape. On Wednesday they added four new players to push the roster to 16. Joining the Stingers are sophomore infielder Hunter Dozier and junior infielder Zach Benson from Stephen F. Austin, along with freshman utility man Brady Anderson and freshman outfielder/first baseman Michael Suchy from Florida Gulf Coast. Dozier is the most accomplished of the group, having started at shortstop for the Lumberjacks last season as a freshman.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar Stingers season opener is still 7½ months away but they have already begun constructing their roster for the 2012 season. The team announced Wednesday that eight players from the 2011 team that finished 39-31 will be returning for 2012. The returning players are: Outfielders Pat Stover and Mitch Rowan, and pitchers Scott Lieser, Ben Burns, Kody Gorden, Tanner Banks, Thomas Taylor and Josh Hoekstra. With the return of Stover and Rowan, the Stingers bring back two of their major offensive producers from 2011.
WILLMAR -- Willmar Stingers outfielder Pat Stover has received the Northwoods League Rawlings Big Stick Award for 2011, which goes to the player with the highest batting average in the league at each position. Stover's .337 mark was sixth-highest in the Northwoods League and the best on the team, just ahead of Mitch Rowan (.333) and Eduardo Gonzalez (.323). He is the second Stinger to win the award. Jordan Smith won it in 2010 with a .374 batting average as an outfielder.
MONTEVIDEO -- What a difference a year makes. At this time last season, the Montevideo ThunderHawks had a 2-2 record and had scored 74 points in four games. Those two wins turned out to be the only ones they would get the whole year as they finished 2-7. They scored a total of 170 points. The ThunderHawks go into Friday's game at Minnewaska with a 4-0 record. They're coming off a wild 56-49 win at Albany last week when they scored 28 points in the fourth quarter to come from behind and knock off the Huskies, who entered the game ranked No. 2 in Class AAA.