How sweep it is: Express win two against Lakeshore
After rain spoiled the first night of Express baseball at Carson Park, the second night made up for it in a big time fashion.
Behind solid pitching and timely hitting, Eau Claire captured a doubelheader sweep of the reigning Northwoods League South Division Second Champion Lakeshore Chinooks by scores of 5-2 and 3-2 in front of 2,040 fans.
The Express won game one behind a gem on the mound from Pepperdine freshman Ian Doughty, who pounded the zone with the fastball all night long to seal the win. He wound going five innings, striking out five and allowing just one run on three hits.
“His maturity, and it’s tough to find in freshman, he really mixed up his fastball ranging from 86 to 91, really giving that extra gas when he had to," Field Manager Dale Varsho said. "I was very impressed by his stature on the mound all night long.”
He got some help offensively, too, as Air Force freshman Tyler Jones and UW-Milwaukee junior Mike Porcaro both had two RBI in the contest for the burnt orange and black. Eau Claire pounded out eight hits in the contest.
“Overall, we can do some things at the plate," Varsho said of his new batch of guys. "We can put the ball in play, we can run and we don’t strike out a whole lot. It should be fun to watch.”
Northern Illinois' Jordan Ruckman pitched two innings and struck out two guys to notch the save.
In game two, it seemed as if the Chinooks had opportunities to blow the game open, but Montevallo's Aron McRee and Iowa Central's Austin Stroschein danced out of danger all night, escaping a bases loaded jam with one run as well as two situations of two guys on and only one out without surrendering a run.
But it was Air Force's Brian Sicher who came up with the clutch at-bats at the end to shock Lakeshore.
Down 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Sicher, who had a walk-off hit against Green Bay last season, singled in Mike Porcaro to tie it and then drew a bases-loaded walk an inning later to score Lewis University's Mike Barajas to literally walk it off.
“Something about Carson Park is that I always come up with something big in the last couple of innings," Sicher said.
Barajas led off the inning with a triple. Throughout the day, he accumulated four hits, scored three runs and snagged two bases.
Brady Burzynski of UW-Stout had three hits in game two.
With the win, the Express start out the season 2-0 for the first time since 2011. Sicher, who has been a part of two straight opening day losses, said it's great to get the season started off on a high note.
“It’s huge for the city of Eau Claire and it’s huge for the fan base," he said. "Knowing we got off 2-0 hopefully gives them a little more confidence in us. It’s always fun to win and put on a good show for this crowd.”
The Express will look to keep the train rolling tomorrow night as they face their first North Division opponent of the year in the Rochester Honkers. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. at Carson Park.