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Bird Island stymies Rails

WILLMAR -- Gregg Helin survived a couple of early bases-loaded jams and went on to throw a two-hitter, leading Bird Island to a 5-1 win over the Willmar Rails in amateur baseball Friday night at Bill Taunton Stadium.

WILLMAR -- Gregg Helin survived a couple of early bases-loaded jams and went on to throw a two-hitter, leading Bird Island to a 5-1 win over the Willmar Rails in amateur baseball Friday night at Bill Taunton Stadium.

The win gave the Islanders a leg up in the Cornbelt South among teams fighting for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming league playoffs.

Mark Neubauer provided a 2-0 lead for the Islanders in the third. Leading off, No. 9 hitter Nick Okins reached on an error, then circled the bases when Neubauer delivered a towering home run to left field off Zach Horning.

Helin set down the first 10 Rails in order before walking Mark Krogstad with one out in the fourth. Jordan Olson reached on an infield error. Clean-up hitter Cory Schwantes reached on another error on a wild throw to first, allowing the runners to move up to second and third.

Matt Sagedahl walked to load the bases, then Helin hit Jeff Freeman to bring in Olson.

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Helin got Alex Marcus on a deep fly for the third out. Willmar left the sacks jammed again in the fifth on a single by Anthony Stern and two walks. Schwantes flew to Okins in center for the third out.

Bird Island added a run in the fourth on an RBI double by Wade Dollerschell. He was doubled off when Krogstad made a fine running catch of Stephen Engelmann's sinking liner.

Player/manager Mike Nagel singled and scored on a wild pitch in the sixth for a 4-1 lead.

Helin just got stronger. A single by Alex Marcus provided Willmar's only base runner in the last four innings, a stretch in which the right hander registered eight of his 10 strikeouts.

Bird Island, Atwater and Willmar are all jockeying for the second seed behind Cornbelt South leader Raymond. The Islanders pulled a game ahead of the Rails with the win at 8-5, while Willmar is at 7-6. The loop playoffs begin July 19 with the top two from the South advancing to a six-team region with four teams from the Land O' Ducks.

The American flag in center field flew at half-staff with other city flags in honor of Kyle Miller, a 19-year-old Willmar soldier who died Friday in Iraq.

Bird Island 5, Willmar 1

Bird Island 002 011 010 - 5 8 2

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Willmar 000 100 000 - 1 2 1

HITTING - Bird Island: Mark Neubauer 3-for-5, 2-run HR, 2 rbi; Wade Dollerschell 2-for-3, 2b, rbi; Mike Nagel 1-for-3; Kyle Bruns 2-for-4 ... Willmar: Anthony Stern 1-for-3, Alex Marcus 1-for-4

PITCHING (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Bird Island: Gregg Helin (W)_ 9-2-1-0-3-10 ... Willmar: Zach Horning (L) 6-6-4-3-3-6, Anthony Stern 3-2-1-1-1-3

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