NWL Baseball: Express sweeps Stingers
EAU CLAIRE—The Willmar Stingers' six-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt on Wednesday night as the Eau Claire Express swept a doubleheader between the sides at Carson Park.
Eau Claire bullied their way on the offensive side to a 13-7 win to open the day and finished the night with a dominant pitching performance in a 3-0 victory.
The Stingers, who entered the game two games up on the Express for first place in the North Division's second-half standings, are now tied atop the division with a 13-7 record.
Eau Claire's Luke Eldred was just as dominant as he was efficient in the nightcap, stymying the Stingers for a two-hit shutout as the Express in a 3-0 win to complete the sweep.
Eldred faced just two batters over the minimum, never allowing the Stingers to bring the tying run to the plate after his offense gave him a three-run cushion in the fourth inning.
It was the first time Willmar had been shutout since June 28 against Bismarck.
The Express notched individual tallies in the first, third and fourth innings against Stingers starting pitcher Cameron Churchill. The right-hander allowed 10 hits and walked three batters over five innings, but worked out of trouble to limit the damage to just those three runs.
Luke Becker singled to lead off the fourth inning for Willmar's first hit of the night, and Tyler Murray's sixth-inning single was the team's only other base knock.
Eldred was able to go the distance even with strict Northwoods League pitch count limits because of his ability to dispose quickly of hitters. The Dallas Baptist product didn't strike out his first batter until the ninth inning, but only allowed one walk and relied on sound defense behind him.
Stone Kelly and Alex Reyes combined for three scoreless innings of relief for the Stingers.
A lack of command was the Willmar Stingers' demise in the first game of its 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 to pulling within one game of Willmar for first place in the North Division second-half at the time.
Eau Claire jumped out to an 8-1 lead after three innings and extended that cushion to 13-1 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 3, Willmar 0
Stingers 000 000 000-0 2 2
Express 101 000 000-3 12 0
Hitting - Willmar: Luke Becker 1-3, Tyler Murray 1-3 ... Eau Claire: Kyle Marinconz 3-4 rbi, Luke Bandy 2-4 rbi,
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Willmar: Cameron Churchill (L) 5-10-3-3-3-1, Stone Kelly 2-1-0-0-0-1, Alex Reyes 1-1-0-0-1-1 ... Eau Claire: Luke Eldred (W) 9-2-0-0-2-2
Eau Claire 13, Willmar 7
Stingers 010 000 060-7 10 2
Express 215 120 020-13 12 2
Hitting - 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