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Northwoods League: Willmar stings the Rox

Tucker Novotny throws four scoreless innings in Stingers' 6-5 win

Baseball roundup
Willmar's very own Drey Dirksen celebrates after hitting an RBI triple during a playoffs game against the St. Cloud Rox on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — In a back-and-forth battle through five innings, the Willmar Stingers got the last laugh en route to a 6-5 comeback win against the St. Cloud Rox on Sunday evening.

Before 1,100 fans at Bill Taunton Stadium, Tucker Novotny settled the ship for the Stingers and put on a show.

Novotny, a freshman at the University of Minnesota, pitched four relief innings in shutting down the Rox and keeping the Great Plains West Division leaders off the scoreboard for the remainder of the contest. He struck out eight batters, allowing three hits and two walks to earn the win.

“It was just an incredible team victory overall, and obviously, Tucker Novotny was absolutely lights out,” Stingers field manager Freddy Smith said. “That’s just Tucker being Tucker – doing his job and he’s been great all season long.”

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Stingers relief pitcher Tucker Novotny sticks out his tongue after getting out of a bases loaded situation during a playoffs game against the St. Cloud Rox on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Novotny, who was 3-0 with two saves in the regular season. He had to overcome adversity as he faced bases-loaded situations in both the sixth and seventh innings.

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Novotny struck out O’Neill Burgos, who hit a home run in the fourth inning, preventing any damage. Then in the seventh, the first three batters loaded up the bases before he put out the next three batters, including Northwoods League Postseason All-Star John Nett, to keep the game tied at 5-5.

“It was a pure team win, but we couldn’t have done it without Tuck,” Stingers center fielder Dalton Pearson said of Novotny. “He found a way… He came out strong and finished the job.”

The Stingers also could not have done it without Pearson, either. He went 1-for-1 and scored four of Willmar’s six runs while adding three stolen bases, three walks and two putouts.

Pearson, a sophomore at Georgia State University, scored Willmar’s first run of the game in the first inning on an RBI groundout from Stingers second baseman Scott Anderson. He later scored the game-winning run after a wild pitch from Rox relief pitcher Tyler Cornett in the seventh inning.

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Stingers pitcher Jack Zigan celebrates in the dugout after teammate Nick Terrell hit a home run in a playoffs game against the St. Cloud Rox on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

“During the season, we were just kind of waiting for him to explode and it’s a perfect time for him to really start hitting the ball and getting around the bases for us,” Novotny said. “He was great in the leadoff position and just did it all tonight.”

The Rox’s biggest lead of the game came in the first inning as Charlie Condon hit a two-run home run before Willmar notched two runs in the bottom of the frame to make it 2-2.

Condon gave St. Cloud another lead in the third at 3-2 with an RBI single. But again, the Stingers responded quickly, scoring two runs off a Nick Terrell home run and an RBI triple from Drey Dirksen to score Pearson.

Again it was Pearson who scored the game-tying run for the Stingers in the fifth inning. Graysen Tarlow hit an RBI single into right field.

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Stingers center fielder Dalton Pearson reaches home during a playoffs game against the St. Cloud Rox on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

Tarlow, a redshirt freshman from California State University who joined the Stingers on July 30, has recorded multiple hits in 10 of 15 games. He went 2-for-2 with two walks, one run, an RBI, a double and a stolen base.

The Stingers travel to St. Cloud for Game 2 at 7:05 p.m. Monday at Joe Faber Field. A win would advance them to the divisional championship game.

Jack Habeck, the Northwoods League Pitcher of the Year and redshirt sophomore at St. Cloud State University is the probable starter for Willmar.

“There’s no one better that we would rather be behind, but we’re going to treat it like any other game,” Smith said. “These guys have done a good job of not letting the moment get too big.”

Playoffs

Willmar 6, St. Cloud 5

St. Cloud   201   200   000-5   9   1
Willmar      202   010   10x-6   7   1
Hitting - St. Cloud: John Nett 1-5 rbi sf, Ike Mezzenga 2-5 r, Charlie Condon 2-4 hr r rbi-3 bb, O’Neill Burgos 2-5 hr r rbi, Jack Steil 1-3 hbp-2, Gustavo Nava 1-1, Trevor Austin 0-4 r bb sb, Will Worthington 0-4 r bb… Willmar: Dalton Pearson 1-1 r-4 bb-3 sb-3, Graysen Tarlow 2-2 2b r rbi bb-2 sb, Drey Dirksen 1-2 3b rbi-2 bb sf, Jordan Sagedahl 1-4, Carson Hake 1-4, Nick Terrell 1-3 hr r rbi, Scott Anderson 0-3 rbi hbp
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - St. Cloud: Brayden Gainey 4-5-4-4-2-4, Tyler Cornett (L, 0-1) 2.2-1-2-1-3-1, Enrique Ozoa 1.1-1-0-0-1-1 … Willmar: Logan Samuels 3.2-4-5-5-2-4, Joe Ihli 1.1-2-0-0-0-0, Tucker Novotny (W, 1-0) 4-3-0-0-2-8

Saturday

Regular season

Willmar 10, Duluth 6

The Willmar Stingers came back from a 6-0 deficit to win their regular-season finale against the Duluth Huskies in front of 1,112 fans at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.

Kyle Payne hit two doubles, finishing 2-for-6. He also had three RBIs and two runs for Willmar. Josh Fitzgerald and Graysen Tarlow both had two hits in the victory.

The Stingers set a new Northwoods League record with 525 runs scored in the regular season.

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Willmar High School grad and North Dakota State freshman Andrew Baumgart picked up the win for the Stingers. He struck out three while allowing six runs (three earned) on five hits and four walks over five innings. He was 2-1 with a 6.33 ERA in 13 appearances in the regular season.

Duluth     420   000   000-6   9   4
Willmar   030   411   10x-10   11   1
Hitting - Duluth: Jonathan Vastine 1-3 r-2 bb-2, Kristian Campbell 1-4 2b r bb, Eduardo Rosario 1-2 r bb, Joe Vos 2-4 r rbi-3 sb, Devin Hurdle 1-5 rbi, Cam Frederick 1-5 sb, Isaac Fugere 1-3 2b bb, Jeremy Keller 1-1 2b, Jack Painter 0-3 r bb-2, Jared Mettam 0-5 rbi … Willmar: Kyle Payne 2-6 2b-2 r-2 rbi-3, Josh Fitzgerald 2-2 rbi sb, Graysen Tarlow 2-4 rbi bb sb, Scott Anderson 1-2 bb-3, Dalton Pearson 1-4 rbi bb, Carson Hake 1-4 r-2 bb sb, Jake Entrekin 1-4 2b rbi sf, Nick Terrell 1-4 2b r-3 rbi bb sb-2, Jordan Sagedahl 0-3 r-2 hbp-2 sb, Kole Krier 0-2 r bb
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Duluth: Jaxon Edwards 2-4-3-3-2-0, Michael Hallquist (L, 0-1) 2-3-4-1-2-0, Michael Sarhatt 1-0-1-1-0-2, Caden Edwards 1-1-1-1-2-1, Vos 1-2-1-1-2-1, Fugere 1-1-0-0-0-0 … Willmar: Andrew Baumgart (W, 2-1) 5-5-6-3-4-3, Nolan Kemp (Sv, 1) 4-4-0-0-4-5

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Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in June 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.
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