Now walk it off! Barajas single wins it for Eau Claire
When you're hot, you're hot.
Just when it looked the Eau Claire Express might get beat at its own game of pitching and defense, a furious rally pushed the home team past the Thunder Bay Border Cats 7-6 in 11 innings in front of 1,123 fans at Carson Park.
Eau Claire committed five errors in the contest and trailed 6-3 headed into the eighth inning. But after two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth, that set the stage for Eau Claire's second walk-off hit of the season.
“I don’t know what to explain it, it’s one of those things where we just keep fighting every at bat," Field Manager Dale Varsho said. “It’s one of those things where you don’t know who is going to be the guy that night.”
A quick glance at Wednesday's box score might not suggest it, but tonight's guy was Mike Barajas.
After going 0-for-5 in the first ten frames, the Lewis University shortstop laced a single that bounced off the left fielder's glove to plate Lane Milligan, giving the Express its fifth straight win.
“I’ve been playing this game long enough to know you’ve got to put those at bats aside, just regroup and focus with what you’ve got to do at hand,” Barajas said.
Thunder Bay took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth, but Eau Claire stormed back for three runs in the bottom half of the inning. Mike Porcaro had a two-run single while Brent Gibbs had an RBI double in the frame.
The Border Cats took a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth when Mike Porcaro came up again and laced an RBI triple the other way to score Tyler Hermann. Porcaro finished the night 4-for-5 and just a home run shy of a cycle.
“Mike played very well offensively," Varsho said. "He’s just seeing the ball really well right now, and you can see it by the last couple of nights.”
Brian Sicher had an RBI sac fly to score Porcaro in the next at-bat.
In the bottom of the ninth, Milligan reached on a single, Justin Jaquish bunted him over and Brady Burzynski slapped a single to the opposite field to tie the game, setting the stage for Barajas' heroics two innings later.
On the mound, CJ Eldred went six innings and gave up three runs. Austin Stroschein gave up three as well, but Eann Cox and Eric Gleese were scoreless in relief.
It wasn't the prettiest of games for Eau Claire during the midst of this long winning streak, but a walk-off hit all of the sudden turned an abstract painting into the Mona Lisa.
“This team has great team chemistry," Barajas said. "If one guy doesn’t do it, we know the next guy will do it. We just know we’re going to do it.”
The Express will go for a perfect homestand tomorrow as they face the Border Cats again. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.