Eau Claire, Wisc. — Strong starting pitching and a hot offense could make the Stingers a very dangerous opponent in the second half.
Eau Claire found that out Friday night at Carson Park, as Willmar got a superb outing from right-hander Kiko Garcia and a multi-home run game from the offense in a 9-0 win, setting the record for the largest shutout victory in Stingers history.
After playing in eight straight games decided by two or fewer runs, the Stingers (26-11) finally opened the floodgates on the Express for their second biggest victory of the season. But Garcia highlighted the night in yet another stifling performance from a Stingers starting pitcher, throwing eight shutout innings, while scattering three hits and striking out a season-high eight batters.
With Garcia rolling through the Express lineup, the Stingers offense gave their starter some early run support. Tyler Leffler provided all the support Garcia would need with his solo home run to open the scoring in the second inning.
But Willmar, which hadn't scored more than eight runs since June 22, kept the pedal to the floor. Kyle Gilbert had the big blow for the Stingers in the fifth inning when he hit his fifth home run of the year, a three-run shot, to make it a 5-0 lead. Then in the ninth inning for good measure, Willmar added four more runs, two of which came on Ky Parrott's single down the right-field line.
After Garcia was staked to the early lead, he never looked back. He allowed single base runners in the first, second, fourth and sixth innings, and never had more than one base runner aboard. Following a lead-off walk in the sixth inning, Garcia then retired the final nine batters he faced.
Willmar had twice won by 7-0 scores in shutouts, including one earlier this year in Thunder Bay, but the 9-0 score was the widest margin of victory in a shutout in the Stingers six years as a franchise. They have now reeled off wins in 18 of their last 21 games.
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.
Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Kiko Garcia. 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.