WILLMAR — Grant Kerry may be a little sore after the final pitch of Friday’s game. But the pain was worth it as he brought in the game-winning run for the Willmar Stingers.
Facing the Minnesota Mud Puppies in front of 1,031 fans at Bill Taunton Stadium, the Northwest Nazarene (Idaho) redshirt freshman came into the batter’s box with bases loaded and one out. On a 2-2 count, the pitch got away from the Mud Puppies’ Frederick Romano, plunking Kerry and allowing Drey Dirksen to score the walk-off run in a 4-3 Northwoods League victory.
Derek Hackman got a one-out single for Willmar in the bottom of the ninth inning before Dirksen came in as a pinch runner. Brady Counsell followed up with a walk. Then after a balk, putting Dirksen and Counsell at third and second, respectively, Minnesota intentionally walked Josh Fitzgerald to set up the bases-loaded at-bat for Kerry.
The Stingers led early after a three-run fourth inning. Tate Meiners, a redshirt sophomore from Caledonia playing collegiately at Augustana, brought in two runs with a single. The next batter, Matthew Enck, brought Meiners home on a sacrifice fly.
But the Mud Puppies used the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to chip at the deficit. Kyle Huckstorf had a sac fly in the fifth and Nick Juaire connected with an RBI single in the sixth. William Sturek tied the game at 3-all with a two-out solo home run in the seventh.
Hackman, a redshirt junior from South Dakota State, led the Stingers’ offense with a 3-for-4 outing. St. Thomas freshman Jack Blesch got the win in relief, tossing two innings without giving up a hit. Since coming to Willmar in July, Bleach is 2-0 with 15 strikeouts over 13-2/3 innings.
Juaire, a Farmington native and redshirt sophomore from Notre Dame, was 2-for-4 for the Mud Puppies (1-7).
Now at the .500 mark in the second half of the season, Willmar (8-8) heads to Duluth for a pair of games against the Huskies (7-6).
Minnesota 000 011 100-3 6 2
Willmar 000 300 001-4 8 1
Hitting - Minnesota: Peter Brookshaw 1-5 sb, William Sturek 1-3 hr r rbi bb, Ethan Roe 1-4, Max Gamm 1-3 r bb, Kyle Huckstorf 0-4 rbi sf, Ben Palmer 0-3 r bb … Willmar: Jakob Newton 1-4 r sb, Asa Awbrey 1-4 2b r, Tate Meiners 2-4 2b r rbi, Derek Hackman 3-4 2b, Brett Hammit 1-2, Grant Kerry 0-4 rbi hbp, Matthew Enck 0-2 rbi sf, Drey Dirksen 0-0 r
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Minnesota: Bryce Crabb 7-7-3-2-2-1, Matt Tappe 1 1/3-1-0-0-0-2, Frederick Romano (L, 0-2) 0-0-1-1-2-0 … Willmar: Sam Malec 4-1-0-0-2-3, Chris Rofe 1-2-1-1-2-1, Damon Rademacher 2-3-2-2-2-2, Jack Blesch (W, 2-0) 2-0-0-0-0-1