Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.
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THUNDER BAY - The Willmar Stingers locked up a division championship and capped their best Northwoods League regular season in franchise history with a 7-1 win over Thunder Bay on Sunday. The win was Willmar's fifth straight and secured the North Division second-half championship and the No. 1 seed in the North playoffs.
WILLMAR - With 46 overall wins and counting, the Willmar Stingers certainly gave their fans plenty to cheer about this season. They added an exclamation point with a superb effort offensively, defensively and on the mound in a 7-1 win over Rochester on Friday to close out their 2018 regular-season home schedule at Bill Taunton Stadium. Starter and winner Noah Fluman and relievers Dylan Oliver and Michael Cartwright allowed just six hits and a fourth-inning solo home run, and the Stingers played error-free defense behind them.
Montevideo will play host to the American Legion Division II Junior Legion State Tournament this weekend, and three area teams will compete in the eight-team field. Sacred Heart/MACCRAY opens the tournament against Aitkin at 10 a.m. Friday. Starbuck plays Cook County at 12:30 p.m. Following the tournament's opening ceremony at 3 p.m., Holy Family Catholic plays Caledonia at 4:30 p.m., and the host team, Montevideo, plays International Falls at 6:40 p.m.
NEW LONDON - Peyton Fischer defeated his brother, Will Fischer, 5-7, 6-4, 10-7 to win the Men's Open Singles during the Water Days Tennis Tournament on Sunday. Avery Stilwell defeated Litchfield teammate Shanna Kinny 6-4, 7-5 to win the Women's Open Singles competition. In Men's Open Doubles, Drew Fernelius and Hunter Fernelius defeated Nate Jordre and Peyton Fischer 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 10-7 in the championship match. In Women's Open Doubles, Elise Bierbaum and Anne Bowe defeated Isabelle Schmiesing and Beth Pederson.
REDWOOD FALLS - BOLD needed to go to a second game but defeated Tri-Town to win the Legion Division II Central Sub-District championship on Sunday. Tri-Town, which came back through the loser's bracket, forced a second game for the title with a 5-1 win over BOLD in Sunday's first game. BOLD rebounded for a 12-0 championship-clinching win in Sunday's second game. BOLD knocked Tri-Town into the loser's bracket with a 5-3 win over the Black Sox on Saturday.
To understand what stirs Cayle Hovland at her athletic core, consider this: The Willmar three-sport star holds the Cardinals track and field program's all-time discus record of 139-feet, 8-inches. In second? Hovland's mom, Jill. Cayle is No. 2 all-time with a shot put of 42-feet, 9 inches. Who's No. 1? Yep, you guessed it. Mom.
As his star guard headed to the basket, Willmar boys basketball coach Matt Williams bounded from his chair toward the scorer's table and Cardinals players started rising in anticipation from their seats on the bench. When Noah Slagter's shot dropped through the net, Williams immediately signalled for a timeout and the Cards began celebrating Slagter reaching the 1,000-point career milestone in a Dec. 28, 2016 victory over New London-Spicer.
AVON - The Willmar Legion Post 167 won both its games at the Albany Wood Bat Tournament on Saturday. Willmar defeated the St. Cloud Chutes 4-2 and downed Dassel-Cokato 8-6 in nine innings. Against the Chutes, Willmar's Nate Spencer had a run-scoring pinch hit single in the sixth inning to drive in the eventual winning run. Caleb Ditmarson worked all seven innings, allowing an earned run on three hits while striking out eight. Against D-C, Willmar tied the game at 5-5 with runs in the fourth and fifth innings that erased a two-run deficit.
ATWATER - The Willmar VFW team unloaded on Atwater pitching early and Post 1639 came away with an 11-4 win on Friday. Willmar's Ashton Gregory had two doubles and scored a run, and Asaiah Smith and Jett Solanek both had two hits and scored twice. Adam Bengtson doubled and drove in three runs. Tanner Bauman and Dylan Arndorfer both had hits and drove in two runs, with Bauman scoring two runs and Arndorfer scoring once. Four Post 1639 pitchers combined to allow just four unearned runs on four hits and they struck out 10. Reliever Sam Huseby got the win.
WILLMAR - Willmar turned a tight pitchers' duel into a blowout, scoring nine runs in the fifth and sixth innings and defeating Tri-Town 10-2 on Thursday at Bill Taunton Stadium. Post 167's Kaden Kessler-Gross was 2-for-2 with two walks, drove in two runs and scored three times. Tyler Johnson was 3-for-4 and scored twice, and Jack Baumgart, Jon Broman and Blake VanDenEinde all had two hits. Willmar's Tyler Johnson worked six innings to get the win. He allowed two runs on four hits and he struck out six.