Even after a monster first inning, the Eau Claire Express knew the Willmar Stingers all too well to stop there.
The Express scored six in the first and scored 10 more times throughout the contest to hold off one of the league's top offenses in a 16-11 slugfest at Carson Park.
“It was nice that we didn’t die after that first inning," Field Manager Dale Varsho said. "They kept on swinging the bats all night.”
But oh what a first inning it was.
After the Stingers got a run in the top of the first, the Express took advantage of shaky command from Willmar starter Matt Snyder and loaded the bases with one out. Tyler Hermann laced a two-run single to left, scoring Jeff Hendrix and Lane Milligan.
Two batters later and the bases loaded once again, Alex Call stepped up to the plate.
After what had been six straight balls, the River Falls High School graduate sat on the first strike he saw, and he connected in a big, big way.
He launched a grand slam over the left-field fence to give Eau Claire a 6-1 lead.
“With the bases loaded, I was looking to be aggressive, especially with one out," Call said. "I got a nice fastball right on the inner half, put a good swing on it and knew it was gone right away.”
Willmar, the league's third best offense, fought back and cut it to 6-2 before Eau Claire erupted for five in the bottom of the third.
Up with the bases loaded, Call walked to score Daniel Salters, newcomer Sam Hurt singled in Tyler Hermann, Brady Burzynski scored Drew Turbin and Call on a single and Brian Mundell capped off the scoring by driving in Hurt with a single.
The Stingers scored three in the top of the fourth and two in the fifth, but again, the Express responded.
Jeff Hendrix singled in Call in the fourth while Hurt returned the favor and drove in Mundell in the fifth. Salters also scored on a bases-loaded walk from Burzynski.
The Express scored two more times to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the eighth as Milligan hit a long single to score Burzynski while Salters got his team-leading 37th RBI on a single to score Hendrix.
Eau Claire pounded out a season-high 18 hits in the contest, and every player in the lineup recorded at least one while Call and Hermann both had three.
“Very few strikeouts, a lot of walks, very disciplined, we just hit the ball very well,” Varsho said.
Call said it was a case of contageous hitting all night that sparked the offensive eruption.
"We were here to play tonight, that’s for sure,” he said.
Andy Davis earned the win on the mound for the Express after pitching three innings of relief.
The Express start a two-game series, the final one of the year, at home against the Mankato MoonDogs tomorrow night starting at 6:35 p.m.