NORTHWOODS LEAGUE: Willmar’s 3-run 9th inning dooms Lunkers
For the second night in a row the Brainerd Lunkers found themselves in a back-and-forth game. Only this time the Willmar Stingers scored three runs in the ninth to walk out of Mills Field with the win, beating Brainerd 6-5 Wednesday night.
In the eighth and the score 3-3, with one out Tommy Reyes, who in his three previous at bats reached first after getting hit by pitches, returned the favor, hitting one out of the park over the left field fence with Ryan Abrahamson on second, scoring two for Brainerd and putting them out in front 5-3.
“I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” said Reyes. “It doesn’t feel too good to get hit by the ball three times in a row. You get that desire that you want to do something good, and I am glad I took the energy and used it positively.”
Ray Black started the ninth for the Lunkers, looking to pick up a save, Instead, he walked the leadoff batter, gave up a two-run homer to Willmar’s Blake Shepherd, walked another, threw a wild pitch to put the go-ahead run on third, and watched a sacrifice fly from Eduardo Gonzalez put the Stingers back on top 6-5.
Brainerd attempted to make the bottom of the ninth interesting with runners on second and third with two outs before Wade Wass drilled a line drive to short, ending the game.
“It’s a heart breaker in the end to lose that way but tomorrow is another day, we will come out strong. We believe in Ray, and we always have,” said Reyes.
Scoring started in the fourth when Willmar loaded the bases with no outs before Mitch Delfino hit a line-drive single over third base, scoring two for the Stingers along the way. With one out and runners on first and third, Lunkers starting pitcher Joe Willman caught Willmar’s Gonzales trying to steal second. The ensuing rundown moved from between first and second to third and home when Pat Stover, the other Willmar base runner, decided to try to score. The play ended when both Stingers were occupying third and Stover was forced back toward home and was tagged out in the process. With that run preventing the out and Willman’s striking out of the next batter the Lunkers got themselves out of an early jam.
The Lunkers answered in the fifth inning, knotting it 2-2 when they too loaded the bases with no outs. The first run came off the bat of Casey Roche who put the ball deep enough in center field for a sacrifice fly that scored Reyes from third. Paul Toboni drove in the second run when with an RBI single to left field.
Willman found himself in trouble again in the seventh when a leadoff single, a passed ball, a walk, and a sacrifice bunt put Willmar in scoring position with runners on second and third with one out. Two batters later first baseman Abrahamson dove and just missed a ground ball that put Willmar in the lead 3-2. Willman was replaced by Joe Harvey, who finished off the inning keeping the Lunkers within one.
Willman pitched 6 2/3 innings taking a no decision, surrendering three runs on seven hits, walking three, and striking out four.
In the bottom of the seventh with two outs Toboni picked up his second RBI with a single that scored Vince Bruno from second tying up the game 3-3.
With the loss Brainerd ended the three-game series with Willmar going 1-2 and will move on to Mankato to take on the North Division first place Moondogs on Thursday night.
Willmar 000 200 103 -6 9 2
Brainerd 000 020 120 -5 9 1
Willmar: Kody Gorden, Chris Gonzales (6), Ricky Knapp (8) and Jarid Scarafiotti
Brainerd: Joe Willman, Joe Harvey (7), Ray Black (9),and Wade Wass
W: Ricky Knapp. L: Ray Black.
2B: W-Eduardo Gonzales; Brd-Wade Wass
HR: W-Blake Shepherd; Brd-Tommy Reyes
SF: W-Gonzales, Jarid Scarafioti; Brd-Casey Roche
HBP: Brd-Reyes (3)
RBIs: W-Mitch Delfino (2), Shepherd (2), Mitch Rowin, Gonzales; Brd-Casey Roche, Paul Toboni (2) Tommy Reyes (2)
DP: W 1, Brd 2
LOB: W 7, Brd 11