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Stingers Rewrite Record Books En Route to First Playoff Appearance
by Kyle West
Three Northwoods League records, multiple franchise records and many additional milestones highlighted Willmar’s 2012 season, which ended with the Stingers’ first postseason berth in franchise history.
Forrestt Allday claimed two Northwoods League single-season records - most runs scored (68) and most walks (77) in a single year – while the Stingers also achieved a Northwoods League record for walks as a team with 361, eclipsing the old mark of 333 by Madison in 2008. Allday’s 68 runs surpassed the record of 61, which stood for 17 years after being established by Jermaine Clark of Kenosha in 1995, and he shattered the walks record by 17 (Ben Magsig, Alexandria, 60 in 2011). Meanwhile, Michael Suchy also etched his name into an offensive record book, driving home a franchise-record 62 RBIs, which ranked second in the Northwoods League for the 2012 campaign.
In a season that began with five losses, the Stingers quickly turned it around with a 9-5 victory at Rochester in a game that included the team’s first home run of the season, a three-run blast deep over the left-field fence by Kenny Roberts. Willmar proceeded to go 41-23 after its initial five-game skid, and the Stingers hit 64 home runs over their final 64 games, which marked the third most in Northwoods League history for a single season. Roberts finished the year as the league leader in home runs with 16, which tied David Schultz of La Crosse in 2003 for the fourth-most all-time in a Northwoods League season.
Willmar hit its stride mid-June when the team went on a franchise-record seven-game winning streak June 16-22, which Michael Suchy capped off with a walk-off homer in the 14th inning of a 7-6 win against the Rochester Honkers. The contest marked the longest in Stingers’ history both in length of time (4:52) and number of innings.
Willmar improved to 15-9 with the dramatic victory. However, the Stingers could not catch the Mankato MoonDogs in the first-half standings, as Mankato finished the opening half on a nine-game winning streak to secure a playoff spot with a 28-7 mark. Willmar set a franchise record for most victories in the first half by winning 20 of its final 30 games to finish second in the first-half standings at 20-15.
Willmar’s offense really hit its stride in the second half, scoring 62 runs in the first five games, including back-to-back franchise-record games of 16 and 21 runs in Rochester. The Stingers outscored the Honkers, 37-20, during the two-game series at Mayo Field that included six Stingers home runs.
While the offense picked things up in the second half, the Stingers also received some strong pitching performances as well. Jerad McCrummen won three of his first four starts in the month of July to improve to 5-1 on the season and lower his ERA to 2.78, which earned him a spot on the Northwoods League North Division All-Star Team. Brady Anderson also earned the distinction of participating in the Northwoods League All-Star Game from the Stingers pitching staff. Anderson had a 2-0 record and 10 saves in 14 appearances at the time of his selection. He finished the year second in the Northwoods League with 15 saves, striking out 35 batters in 30.0 innings.
Two Stingers hitters made the trip to Madison, Wisconsin as well. Suchy started the game at first base, went 1-for-3 and scored the first run of the contest. Hunter Dozier was the only shortstop selected to the squad after posting a .331 batting average prior to the voting. He reached once in the contest on a walk. McCrummen and Anderson each struck out a batter in their appearances at the showcase at Warner Park, with McCrummen tossing a full inning and Anderson pitching 2/3 inning of relief.
After the All-Star Break, Willmar won six of its first seven games, including a 20-3 rout of the Honkers at Bill Taunton Stadium, to storm past the Duluth Huskies in the standings and take a 2.5 game lead with 10 games remaining. Willmar never relinquished its lead in the second-half standings, fending off the Huskies, St. Cloud Rox and Alexandria Beetles down the stretch to claim the second-half title with a 21-13 record.
Willmar secured its first playoff berth in franchise history on the next-to-last day of the regular season with a 9-2 victory against Thunder Bay, which also gave the Stingers their franchise-record 41st win of the year. Willmar ended the season with an overall record of 41-28 and advance to take on the Mankato MoonDogs in the Northwoods League North Division Playoffs.
After dropping the first contest of the best-of-three series, the Stingers won their first playoff game in team history behind a masterful pitching performance by Kody Gorden. The southpaw struck out eight batters and only walked one while pitching eight shutout innings to lead Willmar to a 4-0 victory at Franklin Rogers Park in Mankato. Hunter Dozier pitched the final inning to secure the victory. Offensively, the star was Kenny Roberts with a 2-for-3 performance that included two doubles, two RBIs and a run scored. Willmar’s season ended the next night, however, with a 7-3 defeat in the decisive third game of the series.
A record number of fans witnessed the many other records the Stingers set throughout the 2012 season. A total of 35,049 fans attended Willmar’s 34 home games for an average of 1,031 per contest. Both numbers marked all-time highs for the Stingers, who hope to build on the many successes of the 2012 year with an even more exciting 2013 campaign. The 2012 season is presented by Charter.