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Stingers’ bats break free in triumph over Express

EAU CLAIRE, Wis.—After getting shut out the previous two nights, the Stingers got back to their offensive tendencies Thursday night at Carson Park against Eau Claire. Behind 10 runs in the final six innings and five in the top of the ninth, Willmar retaliated from an early four-run deficit to knock off the Express 11-6 and keep pace with Waterloo for home field advantage.

Willmar (44-25 overall, 22-17 second half) started right away with a run in the top half of the first inning to grab the early lead. Sean Beesley led off with a single into left field and then stole one of eight bases the Stingers had during the game to move into scoring position at second base. The throw to second skipped into center and Beesley then moved to third on the same play. Reagan Fowler grounded out to put the Stingers up 1-0 early.

But the Express came back to take the lead with five runs over the next three innings against Willmar starter Kurt Yinger. Eau Claire tied the game at one with a solo homer by Brian Mundell in the bottom of the first and then struck for three more in the bottom of the second and a single run in the bottom of the third to make it 5-1.

However, unlike the previous three nights, the Stingers were not going down without an answer and notched runs in each of the next four innings after the bottom of the third to take the lead. Willmar scored one in the top of the fourth with more defensive miscues by the Express, as Tyler Cohen walked and came around to score with the help of another throwing error by Express catcher Lane Milligan. Two more in the fifth and one apiece in the sixth and seventh with the help of four more errors gave the Stingers the 6-5 lead.

Eau Claire answered with a run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game once more, but as has been the case on many occasions this year, Willmar busted the game wide open with a big top of the ninth. Jack Ross drove a screamer off the middle of the wall in right center to start the ninth inning and set the tone. Eight more batters went to the plate in the inning, and after a throwing error by Tyler Hermann gave the Stingers the lead, Joey Hanowski had a crucial two-run single to widen the gap to three. Two more runs eventually scored and the gap was plenty big enough for Matt Geislinger to hold on for his sixth relief win of the year.

The 2014 season is presented by Charter. For more coverage of the Stingers visit www.wctrib.com.

Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Joey Hanowski. 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.