Wisconsin Rapids and Eau Claire will face off in the best-of-three series
By: Erik Buchinger – Northwoods League
Rochester, Minn. – The 2016 Summer Collegiate World Series will begin Thursday night, as the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters host the Eau Claire Express at 7:05 p.m. at Historic Witter Field to start the best-of-three series for the Northwoods League title.
Wisconsin Rapids comes into the playoffs with the best record in the Northwoods League, as the Rafters won the first and second half of the South Division and finished with a record of 49-23. Wisconsin Rapids made quick work of the Lakeshore Chinooks on Monday in the first round of the South Divisional Playoffs by a score of 19-3 at home. On Tuesday, the Rafters scored in six consecutive innings to defeat the Battle Creek Bombers 7-3 to advance to the World Series.
Eau Claire won the first half in the North Division to earn a playoff berth and finished the regular season with a 45-27 overall record. The Express allowed just four hits and one run on Monday night to beat the Mankato MoonDogs 5-1 at home in the first round of the North Division playoffs. On Tuesday night Eau Claire lost its three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth as the St. Cloud Rox forced extra innings. After a scoreless 10th inning the Express then scored five runs in the top of the 11th inning for an 8-3 victory to earn a spot in the World Series.
The two teams have been evenly matched, though it has been a small sample size. In four games played between Wisconsin Rapids and Eau Claire, the regular-season series was split at 2-2, and the Rafters have outscored the Express by only one run at 22-21.
After both teams had the day off on Wednesday, Game 1 of the 2016 Summer Collegiate World Series will begin on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. in Wisconsin Rapids. The Express will start Jake Sommers (UW-Milwaukee), who has a 3-3 record with a 2.43 ERA in 11 appearances. For Wisconsin Rapids, Gareth Stroh (Coffeyville CC) comes in with a 5-2 record and a 3.60 ERA in 11 starts.
Eau Claire will host Wisconsin Rapids at Carson Park on Friday night at 6:35 p.m. for Game 2, and the Rafters will host Eau Claire on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. for Game 3 if necessary.