Stingers on fast track to first-half title
WILLMAR -- With just three games remaining in the first half of the season, the Willmar Stingers are in first place in the Northwoods League's North Division by two games after they swept the Eau Claire Express 8-6 and 6-5 over the weekend at Bil...
WILLMAR - With just three games remaining in the first half of the season, the Willmar Stingers are in first place in the Northwoods League’s North Division by two games after they swept the Eau Claire Express 8-6 and 6-5 over the weekend at Bill Taunton Stadium.
Willmar (21-11) led 2-0 on Sunday before the visiting Express (12-21) scored twice in the seventh and once in the eighth to take a 3-2 lead. The Stingers responded by plating four runs in the bottom half of the eight.
Leadoff hitter Dan Motl started the Stingers’ eighth with a single and advanced to second on Kyle Gilbert’s single. Ky Parrott followed with a double to right field to bring in Motl and move Gilbert to third. Storm Wilson came in to pinch-run for Gilbert and Tyler Leffler came through with a double to left to drive in Wilson and Parrott and give Willmar a 5-3 lead.
Brian Pruett then singled Leffler to third and pinch-hitter Eddie Estrada followed with sacrifice fly to center to bring in Leffler with what proved to be the winning run.
Eau Claire managed to pull within one in the ninth when Daulton Varsho hit a two-run homer. Dakota Belter settled down and induced two fly outs and notched a strikeout to pick up the win.
Motl, Parrott and Sean Beesley had two hits apiece. Parrott also had an RBI single in the sixth that gave Willmar a 2-0 lead.
Motl scored the game’s first run after coming home on Gilbert’s sacrifice fly in the first.
Willmar starter Zack Strecker gave up six hits and two runs while striking out four and walking four in seven innings of work.
The Stingers have a home-and-home doubleheader with the Alexandria Blue Anchors today starting at 12:05 p.m. in Alexandria. The first half wraps up on Tuesday for the Stingers with a 6:05 p.m. game at Duluth. The first-half champ automatically earns a spot in the playoffs.
The Stingers were outhit 15-11, but nine of the hits went for extra bases on Saturday.
Eddie Estrada and Lucas Tancas both doubled twice and Billy Quirke tripled for Willmar, which led 6-4 after four innings.
Estrada and Dan Motl had RBI doubles and Quirke knocked in Estrada with a triple in a three-run second. Another three runs came in for the Stingers in the fourth when Brian Pruett hit a bases-clearing double.
Motl added an RBI single in the sixth and Tancas’ second double of the game drove in Estrada in the eighth to cap the scoring.
Garrett Anderson threw 2.2 innings of scoreless relief to get the win. Brady Anderson notched the save after surviving a shaky ninth. The Express had runners on first and third, but Brady Anderson got a strikeout to end the game.