EAU CLAIRE, WI – The “never-say-die” team the Bismarck faithful were so used to seeing earlier on in the season showed up tonight in Eau Claire.
The Bismarck Larks fell just short to the Eau Claire Express losing 5-4 in the series opener at Carson Park.
Unlike their previous two games, the Larks (12-19) battled their opponent and gave themselves a chance to tie things up in the top of the ninth.
In the first three innings, the Larks offense rattled off six hits and two runs on Express (21-10) starter Luke Eldred. Ryan Anderson got things started in the top of the first inning when he laced a double that one-hopped the left field wall. Anderson’s team-leading 13th double scored Scooter Bynum and put the Birds up 1-0.
Another Larks run was tacked on in the top of the third inning thanks to a pair of errors from Express shortstop Josh Norlin. Norlin booted a ball that allowed Ulrich to reach safely and then followed that up two batters later with a two-base throwing error on an Anderson infield single. Ulrich scampered home on the errant throw and extended the Larks advantage to 2-0.
Meanwhile, Jamie Kaye was continuing to build upon his two strong appearances as a member of the Larks rotation.
Kaye’s third start as a Lark began by retiring the first six Express batters he faced. In the bottom of the third inning, he allowed a couple of hits but worked out of the jam getting Ty Greene to pop out on the infield.
Little did the Larks know, but that would be the last inning that they would hold the outright lead for the remainder of the game.
And the defense was the one to blame.
After Garrett Wolforth began the top of the fourth inning with a solo shot to right, a pair of Larks errors enabled the Express the opportunity to tie up the game later in the inning. A Spencer Gillund fielding error and a Quinn Irey throwing error extended the inning allowing Devon Garcia to drive home Luke Bandy with a sacrifice fly.
A quiet fifth inning for both sides was followed up by another two-error inning on defense for the Larks in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ashton Roy committed both a fielding and throwing error allowing one run to score. Norlin took advantage of the extra opportunities later in the inning by driving home a second Express run via an infield single.
Things continued to sputter out of control defensively when Ulrich dropped a can-of-corn pop fly off the bat of Bandy in the bottom of the seventh inning. The fifth error of the night for the Larks proved costly as Daytona Bryden later drove in Wolforth with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2 in favor of the Express.
This was the point in the game where the fight that was so prevalent in the team earlier in the season came back to life.
Anderson capped of his monster day at the plate with a two-run mammoth shot to deep left-centerfield. Anderson’s fifth home run of the season brought the birds of Bismarck within one run heading into the bottom of the eighth inning.
After a quick 1-2-3 inning from Zach Walz out of the bullpen, the Larks were ready to make a late-inning comeback. Irey led off the top of the ninth with a line-drive single to left. Jeff Mayes followed suit with a successful sacrifice bunt that gave the Larks two chances to drive home Irey from second.
Express pitcher Alex Ogren would not let that happen. Ogren got Ulrich to fly out to left and ended the game by striking out Bynum. The 5-4 loss served as the Larks third loss in a row, dropping them to a season-high 10 games below .500 in their overall record.
Eldred settled in after the shaky start allowing just two hits after the top of the third inning. Eldred pitched seven innings giving up eight total hits. He allowed one earned run and only one walk as he earned his fourth win of the season.
Kaye produced another solid start in which he ended up on the losing end. Kaye got through six innings allowing seven hits and four runs (1 ER).
As for Anderson, he recorded his third multi-hit ballgame in his last four appearances. Anderson has now hit safely in 33 out of his 44 games as a Lark. His .341 batting average stands 10th best throughout all of the Northwoods League.
Anderson and the rest of the ballclub will look to slow down the Express on Wednesday, August 9th following an off-day tomorrow.
The first pitch for the final road game of the inaugural season is set for 6:35pm.
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The Bismarck Larks are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, 180 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.bismarcklarks.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Larks as your favorite team.