Stingers end Express’ playoff hopes with 17-2 win

Willmar, Minn. – The bats were hot for the Stingers Friday night as they beat the Eau Claire Express 17-2 to end Eau Claire’s playoff hopes.

Eau Claire scored first on a solo home run by Carter Graham to make it, at that point, 1-0. Its only other run came on a bases loaded hit by pitch in the eighth inning, when the game was already out of reach.

Willmar scored nine times in their half of the third inning, with 12 batters coming up to the plate.

A bases loaded walk by William Hamiter tied it at one, then Jakob Newton scored on a wild pitch to give the Stingers the lead. Drey Dirksen followed with a sacrifice fly and Matt Enck walked with the bases loaded. Brady Counsell came up for the second time in the inning and hit a grand slam over the left field wall. Jakob Newton hit a solo shot for the Stingers’ second consecutive home run, and those big blows capped off a spectacular offensive inning.

It remained 9-1 until the seventh when Willmar added six more and 11 batters came up to the dish. Jorge Lucero and Tate Meiners scored on singles, and Matthew Enck came in on a sacrifice fly. Drey Dirksen scored two with a double and Lucero (batting for the second time in the inning) knocked in Dirksen with a double of his own. Willmar added two more in the eighth as well.

With the Express’ playoff hopes eliminated, the Duluth Huskies are the second team out of the Great Plains East to make the playoffs.

The Stingers aim to sweep Eau Claire Saturday night, Aug. 14, which is the final game of the 2021 season. First pitch from The Beehive is 7:05 p.m.