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Arbeiter tosses gem, but Stingers fall to Express in finale

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Tyler Smith hit his first home run of the season and Caleb Arbeiter didn’t allow an earned run in his second start of the year, but Eau Claire scored three times in the ninth inning on Wednesday night to top Willmar 5-4 at Carson Park.

Arbeiter (Murray State) dominated from the get-go, scattering just six hits in his 6 2/3 innings and striking out a season-high seven with just one walk. But the late rally by the Express (39-23, 14-12 second half) prevented the right-hander from picking up his second-straight win.

Trailing 4-2 going to the ninth, Eau Claire had the first two batters reach on a walk and a single. Sam Hurt then bunted both runners into scoring position, a move that would pay dividends a batter later when Kyle Marinconz singled both home. Marinconz moved to third on the play on an error, and he eventually scored the winning run later in the frame.

Willmar (33-29, 15-11 second half) led from the early stages and scored in the third going thanks to Smith’s home run. In the top of the inning with no one on, Smith (Pepperdine) hammered a 1-0 pitch over the right field wall to give Willmar the 1-0 lead.

The Stingers added to that lead in the fifth courtesy of the RBI leader in the Northwoods League in Greg Lambert (Southern Illlinois). With the bases loaded and two outs, Lambert cracked a single back up the middle to score Luke Becker (Kentucky) and Smith.

Eau Claire got two runs back in the bottom of the seventh inning to cut the lead to one run, but the Stingers answered with an insurance run in the ninth inning. Travis Wacker (Oklahoma State) doubled to right field to start the frame, and Quincy McAfee (Pepperdine) then came in to pinch run. Brandon Perez (USC) immediately followed with a double to bring McAfee home.

Tonight’s Center for Diagnostic Imaging player of the game was Tyler Smith. 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.

Willmar now returns home for the second-to-last homestand of the year that starts on Thursday night with Blues Brothers Night at the Beehive. The first 500 fans on Thursday will receive sunglasses courtesy of Fischer Laser Eye Center.

The Stingers will also welcome the 250,000 fan in team history through the gate on Thursday. The 250,000th fan will receive an official Stingers jersey, an autographed baseball from the Stingers first major league player Jacob Barnes, and the chance to participate in on-field activities.

The 2016 Stingers season is presented by Marcus Construction. For more coverage of the Stingers visit the West Central Tribune online at www.wctrib.com.