ALEXANDRIA, Minn.—A night after their three-game winning-streak got snapped by the Blue Anchors, the Stingers exacted some revenge Saturday night on the road with an offensive outburst of their own, knocking off Alexandria 8-2 at Knute Nelson Memorial Park.
The Stingers (8-4) went down in order in the first inning, as did the Blue Anchors (3-9), but in the top of the second small ball produced the only two runs Willmar starter Austin Klein would end up needing. Reagan Fowler began the inning with a well-placed chopper to first base that he beat out for an infield single. After a second-straight infield single by Max Ayoub—this time to the left side of the infield—the Stingers had two on with no one out. Blue Anchors starter Zach Muckenhirn then loaded the bases with a walk of catcher Sam Hall, giving the Stingers a chance to break open the game early. Troy Kuhn and Max Dutto did exactly that with back-to-back sacrifice flies to put Willmar up 2-0.
Now with a two-run cushion, Klein went back to work on the rubber for the Stingers and continued to roll against the Alexandria hitters. He had his curveball working from the beginning of the game and continued to keep hitters off balance with the sweeping breaking pitch. With the help of his curve, Klein struck out seven hitters during his seven innings pitched.
The first hiccup Klein experienced was a one-out single in the fourth inning, but he quickly got out of the frame on a tailor made double play ball to Max Dutto at shortstop.
The Stingers then came to bat for Klein in the next half inning to make sure the game was well in hand. Already leading by three and using only singles, Willmar sent 10 men to the plate in the fifth inning and scored five runs to put the game out of reach. After Dan Motl grounded out to start the inning, the Stingers loaded the bases with three straight singles by Sean Beesley, Nick Rivera and Fowler. The first run of the inning then came in on a four-pitch walk to Max Ayoub to stretch the lead to four. With two gone in the inning, Kuhn chased Rivera and Fowler home with his two RBI single. As the eighth and ninth batters of the inning, Dutto and Frankie Rios also came up with singles with Ayoub scoring on Dutto’s base knock and Kuhn coming into score on Rios’ hit to bump the lead to 8-0.
The fifth inning was the last time the Stingers tallied a run in the victory, but with Klein’s lights out performance on the mound, eight runs was more than enough. Klein faced the bare minimum three batters in six of his seven innings. The only time he faced more was in the seventh when he gave up two runs on just three hits.
Dakota Belter came on to relieve Klein in the final two innings of the game and held serve, giving up just one hit and making a fantastic defensive play as well. With a runner on first in the eighth inning, the Blue Anchors’ Ben Allen lined a shot back through the box that Belter somehow managed to catch behind his back while in his follow through. After making the no-look snag, Belter had plenty of time to double Alex Fink off first base to end the inning.
Following a one-out walk in the ninth inning, Belter came back to get the final two batters to secure the victory.
Austin Klein improved to 2-0 on the season while Muckenhirn (1-2) suffered his second loss for Alexandria.
The 2014 season is presented by Charter. For more coverage of your Willmar Stingers visit the West Central Tribune’s website at wctrib.com.
Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Austin Klein. CDI is your local medical imaging provider. It’s your choice where you go for medical imaging, for MRI, CT, mammograms and pain injections, choose CDI. Visit online at myCDI.com/CentralMN.