WILLMAR - The Willmar Stingers cruised to a four-run lead after eight innings and survived a sloppy ninth to squeeze by Eau Claire 5-4 on Tuesday at Bill Taunton Stadium. The Stingers improved to 8-7. Willmar and the Express play the second game of a two-game set at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Taunton. Willmar starter Trevor Divinski battled Eau Claire's Justin Slaten through 3-1/2 innings until the Stingers' Caleb Ricca hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth.
Shortly before the Section 6AAA final between Willmar and top-seeded Benilde-St. Margaret's, Cardinals head coach Tom DeBoer chatted with first baseman Jack Baumgart's dad, Dave. "He said, 'This is starting to feel a lot like District 5,' and I told him I agreed," DeBoer said following Willmar's win that clinched a spot in the Class AAA state tournament. "This is a special group that has been through a lot and knows what it takes to win."
Every player that dons a Willmar Stinger jersey has the dream of getting a call from a major league team about being drafted. Last week, eight present and former Stingers took that call. Kole Cottam was the first former Stinger off the board in the 2018 MLB Draft, going to the Boston Red Sox in the fourth round. Cottam played for the Stingers in 2016 following his freshman year at the University of Kentucky and led the Wildcats in 2018 with a .352 batting average and 19 home runs.
LA CROSSE - The Willmar Stingers struggled to hold a lead and the La Crosse Loggers staved off a sweep attempt with a 9-4 win Monday night. The Loggers jumped out to a 2-0 lead through two innings but the Stingers bounced back with a three-spot in the fourth inning, only to leak two runs and trail 4-3 after four innings. La Crosse never looked back, tacking on runs in the fifth and the sixth innings and adding three more in the bottom of the eighth.
ST. PAUL — The spring track and field season came to a close on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Klas Field at Hamline University. Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd's Keiser Freetly posted the best finish of area athletes with a second place finish in the 800 meter run for the second year in a row, crossing the finish line at 1:57.48. Melrose's Jesse Middendorf passed Freetly in the final stretch and posted a winning time of 1:56.62.
MANKATO - Sleepy Eye cut BOLD's dream season short with a 3-2 victory in the Section 2A final Thursday night at Franklin Rogers Park. BOLD ends the season at 19-2 with both losses coming to Sleepy Eye, the tournament's No. 7 seed, in the playoffs. The Indians, meanwhile, will head to the Class A state tournament which kicks off Thursday at the Chaska Athletic Park. Sleepy Eye sent senior right-hander Avery Stevens to the bump to battle with BOLD ace and fellow senior James Woelfel for an old-fashioned pitchers duel that lived up to the hype.
WACONIA - Willmar third baseman Caleb Ditmarson doesn't remember throwing the ball across the diamond to end Wednesday's game, but it will be a moment—and a night—that will never be forgotten. The Willmar Cardinals are bound for the state tournament for the first time since 1987 after topping Benilde-St. Margaret's 3-2 in the Section 6AAA championship Wednesday evening at Lions Field. The Cards open the Class AAA state tournament on June 14 at Siebert Field on the University of Minnesota campus.
GRANITE FALLS - Lac qui Parle Valley had KMS on the ropes multiple times in Tuesday's Section 3A losers bracket final. The Saints, however, had an answer to everything. KMS scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings and used a game-winning sacrifice fly from Dylan Rudningen to win 5-4 and move to the Section 3A final. The Saints will get their first crack against Wabasso at 5 p.m. Thursday in Milroy.
WACONIA - The only thing standing in Willmar's way of a trip to the Section 6AAA finals was Waconia, the defending Class AAA state champions. No big deal, right? Caleb Ditmarson certainly wasn't fazed. The senior right-hander tossed a one-hit gem to help the Cardinals top the Wildcats 3-0 and remain undefeated in postseason play. The Cardinals will take on the winner of the losers bracket final between Benilde-St. Margaret's and Waconia at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Waconia.
MOORHEAD - Willmar's Cayle Hovland punched her ticket to the state meet with a second-place finish in the discus and a qualifying throw in the shot put, leading the charge of state-qualifying Cardinals during the Section 8AA Track and Field Meet . Willmar's girls 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams took first place to earn a spot in the state meet, which kicks off Friday at Hamline University in St. Paul. The Section 8AA meet took place over two days, starting Wednesday in Willmar and wrapping up Saturday in Moorhead.