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For Stingers, speed thrills

WILLMAR - Hoping to fulfill their goal of running all over the Northwoods League in the standings, the Willmar Stingers are first running rampant on the basepaths.

Quincy McAfee of the Willmar Stingers is all smiles before a game on June 2 against Eau Claire at Bill Taunton Stadium. Curt Hogg / Tribune
Quincy McAfee of the Willmar Stingers is all smiles before a game on June 2 against Eau Claire at Bill Taunton Stadium. Curt Hogg / Tribune

WILLMAR - Hoping to fulfill their goal of running all over the Northwoods League in the standings, the Willmar Stingers are first running rampant on the basepaths.

With speed aplenty throughout the lineup, the Stingers entered play Wednesday night leading the league in stolen bases-and that is an intentional byproduct of both the roster construction and management.

"It's the guys, the personalities that come over from the schools," Stingers manager Eric Vasquez said. "But it's also my kind of philosophy, I want these guys to go out and play the game how they know how to play the game. I don't pigeonhole them, I don't over-coach.

"So I talk to them beforehand and say, 'Hey, you've got the green light. Let's go.'"

By the looks of it, there is no shortage of green lights going around for Willmar. Marcus Still leads the entire league with nine stolen bases, followed closely by teammate Marcus McCorkle with eight. Stingers shortstop is tied for seventh in the league with four steals.

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Willmar's 24 thefts as a team? You guessed it: also tops in the league.

"It puts a bunch of pressure on the other team, especially that pitcher," Still said. "Being out there on base and having that threat that you can steal is in the back of the pitcher's head, so that's a lot of pressure. It's good to have it, a few guys on the team. Definitely a huge help for us."

Still took the stolen base leaderboard by storm over the weekend and displayed the potential impact of team speed in the process.

Joining the Stingers following his season at New Mexico State, Still swiped four bags in a game twice in a three-game span. During one trip to the bases, Still single-handedly produced a run, stealing second and third base before scoring on an errant throw to third from the catcher.

"Being a leadoff man, I want to be able to get on base any time for my team," Still said. "When I'm out there on first, I want to get to second in two pitchers or less. That way, my hitter can have some more pitches to look at in the count. And just being aggressive out there on the bases, that's my role on the team."

So Still, McCorkle and McAfee all, quite clearly, have the freedom to steal whenever they choose. Does anybody else on Willmar?

"Honestly, everybody does," Vasquez said. "I'm OK with it. You know, until somebody gets thrown out badly or I can tell they aren't reading a pitcher, they can go for it. Just go."

Many of the Stingers' hot starts to games is in direct relation to the success atop the lineup at the plate and on the bases, Vasquez believes.

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"It really kind of gives us a good start," Vasquez said. "The pitchers, the team know it. We might go up 3-0 with these guys right away and all they have to do is throw strikes. It helps everybody."

Wednesday's Game

Bismarck 10, Willmar 6

In their first ever game against Bismarck, the Willmar Stingers fell into a big hole early and never could fully climb back in a 10-6 loss to the Larks.

Bismarck put up six runs in the second inning to take a 7-0 lead, although the Stingers would bring the tying run to the plate in the sixth inning.

Willmar's Eric Del Prado homered and drove in three runs and Eddie Estrada had two hits and an RBI. Brady Shockey had a hit and drove in two runs.

The Stingers and Larks play the second game of a two-game series at 7:05 p.m. today in Bismarck.

Stingers 000 040 020-6 6 4

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Larks 160 001 110-10 8 1

Hitting - Willmar: Brady Shockey 1-5 rbi-2, Eddie Estrada 2-3 r rbi, Rob Emery 1-3 r, Eric Del Prado 2-3 hr r rbi-3 ... Bismarck: Hunter Wilcher 2-2 hr rbi-2 r, Spencer Gilund 1-3 r rbi-2

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Luke Chevalier (L) 1-2-1-1-1-1, Jack Voigt 0.2-3-6-1-1-1, Gus Varland 4.1-1-1-1-2-4, Connor Jahn 2-2-2-2-1-1 ... Bismarck: Andy Lalonde (W) 5-4-4-3-1-5, Carson Selin 2.1-1-2-2-3-0, Noah Luedtke 0.2-1-0-0-0-0, Jeff Lindgren 1-0-0-0-0-0

Related Topics: WILLMAR STINGERS
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