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Stingers shock Duluth

DULUTH -- Eight of the nine starters collected at least one hit for Duluth, but it wasn't enough as the Willmar Stingers rallied for five runs -- capped by Justin Thaxton's three-run homer -- in the ninth inning to shock the Huskies 5-4 in the se...

DULUTH - Eight of the nine starters collected at least one hit for Duluth, but it wasn’t enough as the Willmar Stingers rallied for five runs - capped by Justin Thaxton’s three-run homer - in the ninth inning to shock the Huskies 5-4 in the season’s first-half finale.

It didn’t look good early for the first-half North Division champions as the Stingers were held to just four singles through eight innings. In the same time frame, Duluth, tied for third in the North entering the game, cranked out 11 hits and scored in four innings.

Willmar wasted no time, though, piecing together its rally. Paul Funk reached on an error leading off the frame and moved over to third on Reagan Fowler’s double. Kyle Gilbert then knocked in Funk with a single and Fowler eventually scored on the play as Duluth committed another error.

Tyler Leffler followed with a single, and after Eddie Estrada’s fielder’s choice, Thaxton blasted a 1-1 pitch over the outfield wall for a three-run homer that put Willmar ahead for the first time.

The Stingers threatened to pad the scoreboard when Billy Quirke walked and Dan Motl singled after Thaxton belted his fourth home run of the season, but a groundout ended the rally.

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The late heroics gave reliever Colton Boucher the win as the right-hander threw a scoreless seventh and eighth after starter Will Lydon labored through six innings. Closer Brady Anderson gave up two hits leading off the Duluth half of the ninth, but the right-hander induced a fly out and got two Huskies to strike out swinging to collect his Northwoods League-leading eighth save of the season.

Troy Dixon singled twice for Willmar and Thaxton also singled in the second en route to raising his batting average over .200.

Willmar caps the first half with a league-best record of 23-12. The Stingers host Eau Claire for a two-game set starting today at 7:05 p.m.

 

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