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Cloud nine: Stingers sweep Express, win ninth straight home game

Willmar, Minn. — The Stingers started the season by playing 17 of their first 26 games away from Bill Taunton Stadium. 

Needless to say, they've enjoyed being back at home. Willmar finished a stretch of eight games at home in 10 days on Thursday night, as the Stingers took care of Eau Claire with a 4-3 win, running their home winning streak to nine straight games. 

The Stingers (25-11) recent string of close games continued Thursday, and they won for the second time in walk-off fashion in a week with Brian Pruett providing the game-winning play once more. With the score tied at three and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Tyler Leffler got his first hit of the game, a double to the alley in right, and was in scoring position as the winning run. After Lucas Tancas struck out for the second out of the inning, Pruett came up in another big spot. After working the count to 2-2, Pruett sent one on the ground to shortstop that looked like it would send the game to extras, But the throw was low to first and got away, and Leffler came in to score to give the Stingers their fourth straight win. 

With one of their best options on the hill in Tyler Hanson, the Stingers backed up their starter in the early going to stake him to a 3-0 lead after the first inning. Following a scoreless top half of the first by Hanson, Willmar responded with three tallies in the bottom of the inning, all of which came on a hit by Ky Parrott. Parrott came into the game as the RBI leader for the Stingers, and came up in his first at-bat with the bases loaded. He promptly unloaded the bases with his double to the gap in left-center field for the 3-0 lead. 

After that Hanson continued his efficiency on the mound that has seen him start the season off with a 3-0 record through his first six starts. 

But with the Stingers offense kept at bay by Express reliever Erich Uelmen, Eau Claire chipped away at the deficit. Eau Claire scored single runs in the fourth and sixth innings off of Hanson and then tied the game in the seventh on an unearned run. 

But Willmar's bullpen rose to the occasion in the form of Dakota Belter. Belter's impressive start to the season continued, as he worked two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to set the Stingers up for their rally in the bottom of the ninth. With the two shutout innings, Belter picked up his fifth win of the season, all of which have come in relief. 

Besides winning their last nine home games dating back to June 12, the Stingers have also won their last seven games decided by one run, which goes back to June 12 as well. Five of their nine straight home wins have been decided by one run. 

The 2015 Stingers season is presented by Marcus Construction. For more coverage of the Stingers visit the West Central Tribune online at www.wctrib.com.

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Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Ky Parrott. 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.