Stingers’ winning streak now at 7
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Timely hitting, including a three-run homer from Nick Rivera, and another solid performance from the pitching staff allowed the first-place Willmar Stingers to upend the Eau Claire Express 5-3 and stretch their winning streak to seven Friday at Carson Park.
Four Stingers combined to collect only five hits against three Eau Claire pitchers, but three of them came with two outs. The big blow came in the third when Rivera launched his second home run of the Northwoods’ season to knock in Dan Motl and Hunter Webb and put up the game’s first runs.
The score would remain 3-0 until the hometown Express manufactured three runs off Willmar starter Austin Klein in the sixth inning. Back-to-back singles that sandwiched a stolen base and passed ball gave Eau Claire its first run. Klein then notched his fifth strikeout, but the Express followed with two consecutive singles and a ground-rule double that tied the game.
Tyler Hanson then relieved Klein and needed just six pitches to record the final two outs of the inning.
Hanson would go on to pick up the win — his first since May 28 — as the Stingers answered Eau Claire’s three-run frame with two runs in the seventh.
Brian Pruett reached base with a one-out single and Hunter Webb advanced Pruett to second after getting hit by a pitch. A strikeout followed, but not before Pruett and Webb moved up a base after Eau Claire reliever Conner Rusch uncorked a wild pitch.
Frankie Rios then singled in Pruett with the go-ahead run and an error by the shortstop allowed Webb to score and put Willmar up 5-3.
Hanson shook off surrendering a leadoff single in the seventh by getting a strikeout and inducing three groundouts and two flyouts before giving way to closer Garrett Anderson. Anderson proceeded to pick up his fourth save after he needed just eight pitches to toss a 1-2-3 ninth.
Willmar (14-4) did strike out 11 times and get outhit 8-5, but Eau Claire (10-8) committed two errors, had three wild pitches, hit two batters and stranded five baserunners.
The teams now play two games in Willmar — weather permitting — Saturday and Sunday, both starting at 6:05 p.m.
Visit http://northwoods.bbstats.pointstreak.com/boxscore.html?gameid=210274 for the box score.