Willmar Stingers manager Eric Vasquez isn’t a fan of the circus, but he loves baseball.
That’s why he was happy to see the Stingers bounce back on Independence Day to beat the Bismarck Larks 5-4 in 11 innings to split their Northwoods League series.
A night earlier, Willmar (19-17) had blown an 8-3 lead and lost 15-13 to the Larks (16-20).
“That was baseball today,” Vasquez said. “Last night was kind of a circus show. Everybody hit the ball out. I didn’t really like it. This was a good, competitive game and we just got a hit at the right time.”
Joe Vranesic started for Willmar and worked 5.1 innings. Two relievers followed before Luke Chevalier came on to start the ninth. He worked two scoreless innings to get the win. Alex Reyes worked out of an 11th-inning jam to earn his fourth save.
Carson Selin, who entered the game in the 10th inning for the Larks, took the loss after giving up the go-ahead run in the 11th.
Selin hit Tyler Murray to lead of the 11th and speedy Myles Smith pinch ran. Smith went to second when Larks’ shortstop Cooper Coldiron bobbled what could have been a double-play grounder.
Luke Becker followed with a single to right to score Smith with the go-ahead run.
The Larks threatened in the 11th after Ryan Anderson led off with a single and Newt Johnson walked. Luke Horanski bunted the runners over.
With one out, Coldiron appeared to be hit by a pitch on the right forearm (replays confirmed it), but he was brought back to the plate after it was ruled a foul ball and struck out. Reyes then got Connor Perry on a groundout.
“It is what it is. It was a tight baseball game and we had our opportunities,” Bismarck manager Dean Repay said. “It was going back and forth, and there is a certain point where something gives and somebody has to take the lead. We didn’t capitalize on the opportunities we had.”
Willmar leadoff hitter Marcus Stills was 3-for-6 with a homer, three runs scored and a RBI. He scored in the first as the Stingers went up 1-0.
The Larks scored twice off Vranesic in the second. Noah Sadler, who drove in a run and scored twice, walked and stole second, then scored on Horanski’s two-out double to right-center. Newt Johnson, who also walked, also came home.
The Stingers went up 4-2 when Still homered in the third and Nolan Bumstead walked and scored on Murray’s bases-loaded walk in the fourth off Larks’ starter David Manasek, who gave up three hits, walked four and struck out one in four innings.
JC Bonilla went three scoreless and hitless innings and the Larks went back on top 4-3 in the sixth.
Mitch Gallagher drew a walk from Vranesic and eventually scored on Noah Sadler’s single. Sadler stole second and third bases and scored on Scooter Bynum’s single to right.
A series of relievers kept the Larks off the board from that point on.
Bismarck was one pitch away from winning the game in regulation. Still singled and went to second of Luke Becker’s sac bunt. Josh Bisonette then flared a ball over first base and Still scored the tying run. Seling then got Bumstead to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Connor Perry was 2-for-5 and Horanski 2-for-4 for the Larks, who play two games to open the second half at Duluth before returning home for four games next weekend.
“The first half is done, now we move on to the second half,” Repay said. “We’ll recharge the batteries.”