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Walks haunt Stingers in loss to Express

Willmar Stingers first baseman Danny Rodriguez tags out an Eau Claire Express batter during Wednesday's doubleheader at Carson Park. Curt Hogg / Tribune

EAU CLAIRE - A severe lack of command was the Willmar Stingers’ demise in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday against the Eau Claire Express, as a 13-7 loss snapped their six-game winning streak.

Stingers pitchers combined to walk 18 batters over eight innings and the Express took advantage, pulling within one game of Willmar for first place in the North Division second-half standings.

Eau Claire jumped out to an 8-1 lead after three innings and extended that cushion to 13-7 through seven.

Willmar left-hander Connor Herd made his first start of the season and lasted just 1-1/3 innings, as five walks led to an early exit. By the game’s end, Stingers manager Eric Vasquez would go through three relief pitchers and use Caleb Ledbetter -- an outfielder -- for a scoreless eighth inning.

Despite trailing by 12 runs with six outs to play, Willmar would proceed to make things at least slightly tense for the Express.

Highlighted by Nolan Bumstead’s three-run double, the Stingers plated six runs in the eighth inning. They then loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the hole, but went down quietly to end the game.

Danny Rodriguez hit a solo home run in the top of the second inning, at the time cutting the Eau Claire lead to 2-1, and tying Bumstead for the team-high with six dingers.

Rodriguez came up again in the third with the bases loaded, two outs and Willmar down 3-1. The Stingers first baseman put together a hard-fought 11-pitch at-bat before striking out on a foul tip.

With the Express scoring five runs in the bottom half of the frame against reliever Myles Smith, the next time Willmar would step to the plate, it trailed 8-1.

The second game of the doubleheader begins at 7 p.m. with right-hander Cameron Churchill on the mound.

Eau Claire 13, Willmar 7Stingers 010   000   060-7   10   2Express 215   120   020-13   12   2Hitting - Willmar: Luke Becker 1-5 r rbi, Marcus Still 0-4 bb-2 r, Nolan Bumstead 2-5 2b rbi-3, Danny Rodriguez 1-5 hr r rbi, Matt Klosterman 1-3 r, Harrison Schnurbusch 2-3 r bb-2, Caleb Ledbetter 1-4 r, Carter Schmidt 1-1 r rbi bb-2, Tyler Reichenborn 1-4 2b r bb … Eau Claire: Zach Ashford 2-4 r-3 rbi-3, Zach Gilles 2-2 bb-4 r-3 rbi-2, Luke Bandy 2-4 rbi-3

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Connor Herd (L) 1.1-3-3-3-5-1, Myles Smith 2.2-4-6-6-4-3, Hayden Petrovick 1-1-2-2-7-1, Jacob Mertz 2-3-2-1-0-0, Caleb Ledbetter 1-2-0-0-1-0 … Eau Claire: Emanuel Castellano (W) 5-6-1-1-2-4, Adam O’Malley 2-2-4-4-5-0, Jake Moebius 2-2-2-2-2-2

Curt Hogg

Curt Hogg is a sports reporter at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016. 

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