EAU CLAIRE, Wis. - Willmar's Jayson Newman hit a dramatic game-tying home run in his team's last-gasp at-bat, and Eau Claire's pitching fell apart in extra innings as the Stingers defeated the Express 4-1 on Wednesday to take sole possession of first place in the Northwoods League North Division second-half race.
Newman, pinch hitting for Eric Yang, homered with two outs in the top of the ninth to tie the game 1-1. Four Eau Claire walks in the top of the 10th helped Willmar score three runs and seal the Express' fate.
Willmar reliever Nick Mears struck out two in the bottom of the 10th and got a fly out to center to end the game.
The Stingers (22-11) lead Duluth and Mankato, both 21-11, by a half-game in the North, and they wrap up their regular-season home schedule against Rochester at 7:05 p.m. Thursday and Friday. They end the season with a pair of games at Thunder Bay on Saturday and Sunday.
On Wednesday, Eau Claire's Nick Brueser hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to account for his team's lone run. After Newman tied the game, Express' David LaManna led off the bottom of the ninth with a single but the Stingers turned a double play and Mears came in to get an inning-ending strike out.
In top of the 10th, Willmar's Shea Kramer led off with a single and advanced to second when Davis Elliot reached on a fielder's choice. Matt Rudick walked to load the bases for Tyler Reichenborn, whose ground out to short brought home Kramer with the go-ahead run.
Nic Hernandez drew a walk to reload the bases and after Express reliever Andrew Lee got a strike out for the second out, John Trousdale and Carter Schmidt drew consecutive walks to force home two more runs.
Eau Claire 1
Willmar 000 000 001 3-4 6 0
Eau Claire 000 001 000 0-1 4 0
Hitting - Willmar: Matt Rudick 0-3 r bb-2, Tyler Reichenborn 1-5 rbi, Nic Hernandez 1-4 2b, Jayson Newman 1-1 hr rbi r, Joey Ortiz 1-4, Shea Kramer 2-4 r, Davis Elliot 0-2 r ... Eau Claire: Nick Brueser 1-3 hr rbi r
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Sam Gardner 6.1-3-1-1-5-2, Bryant Claunch 1-0-0-0-0-0, Braxton Johns 1.1-1-0-0-0-1, Nick Mears (W) 1.1-0-0-0-0-3 ... Eau Claire: Justin Revels 8.2-5-1-1-1-6, Andrew Lee (L) 1-1-3-3-4-2, Austin George 0.1-0-0-0-0-0
NLS meeting on Sunday
The fall Parent/Athlete meeting for New London-Spicer is Sunday, Aug. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the NLS Performing Arts Center.
All parents and students in grades 9-12 should attend. Cross country, girls tennis, football and volleyball participants in grades 7-8 can attend if they have questions or need help with registration. For sports start dates and times, check the school web site at: www.nls.k12.mn.us.