No one could have blamed the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers for coming out Sunday a little flat in their game with the Willmar Stingers.
On Saturday night, the Stingers scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning for a 4-3 comeback win over the Lunkers.
With Mankato pounding Rochester Saturday, the MoonDogs stretched their lead to 2 1/2 games over Brainerd with just four left in the first half of the season.
The Lunkers were anything but flat as they came out and played inspired baseball on their way to a 7-4 win over the Stingers. It was also their first win against the Stingers in five tries this year.
Lunkers head coach Ryan Levendoski said it was something he talked to his players about Saturday after the game.
“We talked about it yesterday that we need to move on and move forward,” Levendoski said. “We have four games left to play and if we take care of our games, we have a good chance to be in the race.
“It seems like every time we play against Willmar we don’t pitch good or hit good and we need to get rid of that monkey on our back.”
Charlie Henderson evened his record at 1-1, giving up two runs on six hits, while striking out six. Henderson had to leave the game after throwing 92 pitches. The Stingers’ Mitch Rowan had a 15 pitch at bat against Henderson that contributed to pushing up the pitch count.
Henderson was relieved by James Farris, who pitched three innings, giving up two runs on four hits. Ray Black entered in the ninth inning, and earned his first save of the year.
Wade Wass had a big offensive day for the Lunkers, going 2-4 with two runs scored. The Lunkers got hits from seven of their nine players in the lineup. Five different players had RBIs for Brainerd.
The Lunkers built a 4-0 lead through four innings. In the bottom of the third, Wass led off with a base hit, followed by walks from Ryan Abrahamson and Tommy Reyes to load the bases. Vince Bruno followed with a base hit to left to score Wass with the game’s first run.
Christian Stringer was then hit by a pitch to score Ryan Abrahamson, and Reyes scored on a fielders’ choice from Dan Olinger.
Wass also got things going in the bottom of the fourth inning with a two out triple to the right center field wall. He came into score on a base hit from Abrahamson.
“I was struggling in the early half of the season,” Wass said. “I am not trying to think too much and just go up there comfortable and relaxed. I’m trying to see a pitch in the zone and put a good swing on it.”
Levendoski pointed out that Wass is playing like a number one catcher should play.
“He has done an exceptional job,” Levendoski said. “He has been a No. 1 catcher. I knew he was going to be an offensive threat. He struggled a little bit early, but is doing a nice job. It’s his first experience calling pitches and he has a good feel for the game.”
The Lunkers got two big insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh with a double from Paul Toboni for his first hit as a Lunker. His double scored Nick Hamilton. Toboni came in to score later in the inning on a wild pitch.
The Lunkers now head to the border to face Thunder Bay for three games to end the first half of the season.
Willmar 000 200 020 — 4 10 1
Brainerd 003 110 20x — 7 9 0
Willmar: John Haberman, Ricky Knapp (5), Michael Shreves (7), Kody Gorden and Anthony Bemboom
Brainerd: Charlie Henderson, James Farris (6), Ray Black (9) and Wade Wass
W: Henderson. L: Haberman. Sv: Black.
2B: W-Blake Shepherd; Brd-Christian Stringer, Paul Toboni
SB: Brd-Nick Hamilton
RBIs: W-Shepherd 2, Garrett Borba 2; Brd-Vince Bruno, Christian Stringer, Dan Olinger, Ryan Abrahamson, Toboni
LOB: W 9, Brd 9
Stingers rally past Lunkers
The Willmar Stingers rallied from a 2-1 deficit to score three runs in the top of the eighth inning to defeat the Brainerd Lakes Area Lunkers 4-3 Saturday at Mills Field.
It was John Haberman's two-run single with the bases loaded that brought home the first two Stingers run of the inning. After being caught in a rundown initally, Pat Stover scored the third run of the inning after the ball came out of the glove of Lunkers catcher Jon Crist.
The Lunker would tack on one more run when a Dan Olinger groundout brought home Matt Hillsinger from third base. In the Bottom of the ninth, with Kurt Spomer on to close for Willmar and Steven Brault at second base, Tommy Reyes lined out to the shortstop and Brault was doubled off second base to end the game.
Vince Bruno, in his 2011 Lunker debut, collected two RBIs on the night.
Jason Forjet, who took a no decision for the Lunkers, pitched seven innings, giving up one run and striking out eight.
Thomas Taylor got the win for the Stingers. he threw seven innings, giving up two runs and striking out five.
Tyler Sparger, who relieved Forjet, took the loss to move to 3-1 on the season.
Willmar 001 000 030 — 4 9 1
Brainerd 100 001 010 — 3 9 2
Willmar: Thomas Taylor, Jack Shannon (8), Kurt Spomer (9) and Jarid Scarafiotti
Brainerd: Jason Forjet, Tyler Sparger (8), Chase Webb and Jon Crist
W: Thomas Taylor. L: Tyler Sparger. Sv: Kurt Spomer.
2B: W-Eduardo Gonzalez; Brd-Dan Olinger
3B: Brd-Matt Hillsinger
SB: W-Rob Elliott, Jason Leblebijian, John Haberman, Mitch Rowan
SF: Brd-Vince Bruno
RBIs: W-Gonzalez, Haberman 2; Brd-Olinger, Bruno 2
LOB: Will 7, Brd 5