Doubled up! Express turn three double plays, sweep Bucks
After collecting a combined five runs the past three games, Mike Porcaro and the Eau Claire Express offense knew they had to support the guys on the mound more in order to get out of the gates well in this young season.
They did that Sunday, belting out 13 hits in a 7-1 blowout win to complete a two-game sweep of the Waterloo Bucks in front of 1,492 people at a wet Carson Park.
“It takes so much pressure off the pitching," said Porcaro, who went 3-for-5 on the night with an RBI and run scored. "It was so great to see the bats come alive early in the game."
The Express jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second on an Ian Doughty groundout and Mike Barjas single, and then tacked on three more in the bottom of the third with RBIs from Tyler Hermann, Porcaro and pitcher-turned-outfielder Justin Jaquish, all UW-Milwaukee products. The Express tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on a Brian Sicher single and then in the seventh when Brady Burzynski drove in a run via an error.
But it wasn't just the offense showing up when rain kept many away.
Jordan Ruckman threw six innings and gave up just one run on three hits and seven strikeouts. Austin Stroschein earned the save by throwing three scoreless innings to end the game.
Field Manager Dale Varsho said Ruckman did what most other starters on the team have done all year, and that's not beat himself.
“He got ahead, he did some good things, and he made the guys play defense behind him, and that’s really the key for some of our pitchers,” Varsho said.
And did his defense ever show up.
The Express turned three double plays in the contest, all including Porcaro in some way, shape or form. On one of them, Barajas dove in the hole at short and flipped to Porcaro, who fired a strike to first to get the pair. In baseball terms, it was a web gem.
“Porcaro was outstanding tonight," Varsho said. "He turned some double plays you see in the Major Leagues.”
Varsho said there's a certain spark about this group of guys that have gotten off to a 4-2 start. He said they play well together and get along, which is the key to winning in the Northwoods.
“The only chance you have to win is if you have team chemistry, I don’t care how much talent you have," Varsho said. "Right now, we have that.”
Last season, the Express started out 1-5 through the first six. But Porcaro, who was a part of that team last year that wound up finishing 33-37 overall, said there has been a huge difference this year in both the little things.
“Pitching and defense," Porcaro said. "This year, our pitching has been really keeping us in games, so I think that’s been the difference.”
Little things have led to big results, and the Express will look to continue to the hot streak tomorrow against Alexandria. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. at Carson Park.